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HARPER'S SCIENTIFIC MEMOIRS 

» 

EDITED BY 

J. S. AMES, Ph.D. 

PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY 



III. 

RONTGEN RAYS 



RONTGEN RAYS 



MEMOIES BY EONTGEJST, STOKES 
AND J. J. THOMSON 



TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY 

GEOEGE F. BAEKEE, LL.D. 

PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA 




NEW YORK AND LONDON 

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 

1899 



HARPER'S SCIENTIFIC MEMOIRS. 

EDITED BY 

J. S. AMES, Ph.D., 

PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOS IN JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY. 



NOW READY: 

THE FREE EXPANSION OF GASES. Memoirs 
by Gay-Lussac, Joule, and Joule and Thomson. 
Editor, Prof. J. S. Ames, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins 
University. 75 cents. 

PRISMATIC AND DIFFRACTION SPECTRA. 
Memoirs by Joseph von Fraunhofer. Editor, Prof. 
J. S. Ames, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University. 
GO cents. 

RONTGEN RAYS. Memoirs by Rontgen, Stokes, 
and J. J. Thomson. Editor, Prof. George F. 
Barker, University of Pennsylvania. 

IN PREPARATION: 
THE MODERN THEORY OF SOLUTION. Me- 

moirs by Pfeffer, Van't Hoff, Arrheuius, and Raoult. 
Editor, Dr. H. C. Jones, Johns Hopkins University. 

ON THE LAWS OF GASES. Memoirs by Boyle, 
Amagat, Gay-Lussac. Editor, Prof. Carl Barus, 
Brown University. 

THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS. 
Memoirs by Carnot, Clausius, and Thomson. Editor, 
Prof. W. F.-Magie, Princeton University. 

ON THE PROPERTIES OF IONS. Memoirs by 
Kohlransch and Hittorf. Editor, Dr. H. M. Good- 
win, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

THE FARADAY AND ZEEMAN EFFECT. Me- 
moirs by Faradav, Kerr, and Zeeman. Editor, Dr. 
E. P. Lewis, University of California. 

WAVE-THEORY OF LIGHT. Memoirs by Young 
and Fresnel. Editor, Prof. Henry Crew, North- 
western University. 

NEWTON'S LAW OF GRAVITATION. Editor, 
Prof. A. S. Mackenzie, Bryn Mawr College. 

NEW YORK AND LONDON: 
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS. 



Copyright, 1898, by Harpeu & Brothers. 

All rights reserved. 



PEEFACE 



The new kind of radiation known as X-rays, or Rontgen 
rays, from the name of their discoverer, were first observed and 
studied by Professor W. C. Rontgen, of the University of Wiirz- 
burg, in 1895, and the announcement of their discovery was 
made in a paper which appeared that year, and which is re- 
printed in this volume. As was noticed later these radiations 
had been previously detected and some of their properties 
noted by other observers, notably Professor Lenard ; bnt it is 
to Rontgen that we owe the first systematic study of the meth- 
ods of production and of the remarkable properties of these 
rays. Nearly all the general properties, both positive and neg- 
ative, were investigated by Rontgen and carefully stated. 
These results are contained in the first three pages of this 
volume. 

The most important experiments, however, and those which 
have led to the most important conclusions, were made by Pro- 
fessor J. J. Thomson, of Cambridge. They proved the fact 
that a dielectric traversed by these radiations became a con- 
ductor, or, in other words, was ionized. This discovery in the 
hands of Professor Thomson and his students has led to a 
series of most interesting and important researches, all bearing 
upon the intimate connection between matter and electricity. 

Many hypotheses have been advanced to account for the pe- 
culiar properties of the X-rays. Rontgen himself at first was 
favorably inclined to the idea that they were waves due to lon- 
gitudinal vibrations in the ether, but later he was convinced 
that they were essentially identical with light waves — that is, 



PREFACE 

with transverse waves in the ether. There were grave obsta- 
cles, from many stand -points, to either of these theories, and 
the first suggestion which seemed to offer a satisfactory expla- 
nation of all the properties of the rays came when, instead of 
waves, the idea of pulses in the ether was introduced. This 
idea in its simplicity is that the cathode rays being negative- 
ly charged and travelling with great velocity, give rise to in- 
tensely sudden disturbances in the ether when their motions 
are stopped by reaching a solid obstacle. These disturbances 
are of the nature of irregular pulses, and their properties are 
quite different from those of regular trains of waves. 

This idea of accounting for Eontgen rays by the theory of 
pulses occurred almost simultaneously to Sir George Gabriel 
Stokes, to Professor J. J. Thomson, and to Professor Lehmann, 
of Karlsruhe. Stokes's paper, in which he explains his theory, 
is reproduced in full in this volume, as are also the essential 
portions of Professor Thomson's article. 



GENEKAL CONTENTS 



PAGE 

Preface v 

A New Kind of Rays. First Communication. By W. C. Rontgen. ... 3 
Second Communication. By W. C. Rontgen. . 13 
Further Observations on the Properties of the X-Rays. By W. C. 

Rontgen 21 

Biographical Sketch of Rontgen 40 

On the Nature of the Rontgen Rays. ( The Wilde Lecture. ) 

By Sir G. G. Stokes, Bart , 43 

Biographical Sketch of Stokes 66 

A Theory of the Connection between Cathode and Rontgen Rays. 

By J. J. Thomson 69 

Biographical Sketch of Thomson 73 

Bibliography 74 

Index 75 



ON A NEW KIND OF EAYS 

BY 

W. C. RONTGEN 



TWO COMMUNICATION'S 

Sitzungsberidite der Wiirzburger Physikalischen-Medicinischen Gesellschaft, 
1895 — Wiedemann, Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 64, 1898 



CONTENTS 



FIRST COMMUNICATION 

PAGE 

Discovery of X-Rays 3 

' ' Transparency " of Substances 4 

Properties Investigated. 

Fluorescence 6 

Photographic Action 6 

Refraction and Reflection. 7 

Variation of Intensity with Distance 10 

Magnetic Deflection 10 

Point of Emission of Rays 11 

Propagation in Straight Lines 11 

Interference , 12 

Polarization , 12 

Possible Explanations 12 

Longitudinal Vibrations in the Ether 13 



SECOND COMMUNICATION 

Electrical Properties of X-Rays 13 

Discharge of Electrified Bodies 14 

Action on a Dielectric 14 

Duration of Effect on Air and Other Oases 15 

Centre of Emission of the Rays 17 

Effect of Different Metals , . . 18 



ON A NEW KIND OF RAYS 

BY 

W. C. RONTGEN 



FIRST COMMUNICATION 

1. If the discharge of a fairly large induction-coil be made to 
pass through a Hittorf vacuum-tube, or through a Lenard tube, 
a Crookes tube, or other similar apparatus, which has been suf- 
ficiently exhausted, the tube being covered with thin, black 
card-board which fits it with tolerable closeness, and if the 
whole apparatus be placed in a completely darkened room, there 
is observed at each discharge a bright illumination of a pa- 
per screen covered with barium platino-cyanide, placed in the 
vicinity of the induction-coil, the fluorescence thus produced 
being entirely independent of the fact whether the coated or 
the plain surface is turned towards the discharge-tube. This 
fluorescence is visible even when the paper screen is at a dis- 
tance of two metres from the apparatus. 

It is easy to prove that the cause of the fluorescence proceeds 
from the discharge-apparatus, and not from any other point in 
the conducting circuit. 

2. The most striking feature of this phenomenon is the fact 
that an active agent here passes through a black card-board en- 
velope, which is opaque to the visible and the ultra-violet rays 
of the sun or of the electric arc ; an agent, too, which has the 
power of producing active fluorescence. Hence we may first 
investigate the question whether other bodies also possess this 
property. 

We soon discover that all bodies are transparent to this agent, 

3 



MEMOIRS ON 

though in very different degrees. I proceed to give a few ex- 
amples : Paper is very transparent ; * behind a bound book of 
about one thousand pages I saw the fluorescent screen light 
up brightly, the printers' ink offering scarcely a noticeable 
hinderance. In the same way the fluorescence appeared behind 
a double pack of cards ; a single card held between the ap- 
paratus and the screen being almost unnoticeable to the eye. 
A single sheet of tin-foil is also scarcely perceptible ; it is only 
after several layers have been placed over one another that 
their shadow is distinctly seen on the screen. Thick blocks 
of wood are also transparent, pine boards two or three centi- 
metres thick absorbing only slightly. A plate of aluminium 
about fifteen millimetres thick, though it enfeebled the action 
seriously, did not cause the fluorescence to disappear entirely. 
Sheets of hard rubber several centimetres thick still permit the 
rays to pass through them.f Glass plates of equal thickness 
behave quite differently, according as they contain lead (flint- 
glass) or not ; the former are much less transparent than the 
latter. If the hand be held between the discharge-tube and 
the screen, the darker shadow of the bones is seen within the 
slightly dark shadow-image of the hand itself. Water, carbon 
disulphide, and various other liquids, when they are examined 
in mica vessels, seem also to be transparent. That hydrogen is 
to any considerable degree more transparent than air I have 
not been able to discover. Behind plates of copper, silver, 
lead, gold, and platinum the fluorescence may still be recog- 
nized, though only if the thickness of the plates is not too 
great. Platinum of a thickness of 0.2 millimetre is still trans- 
parent ; the silver and copper plates may even be thicker. 
Lead of a thickness of 1.5 millimetres is practically opaque ; 
and on account of this property this metal is frequently most 

* By "transparency" of a body I denote the relative brightness of a 
fluorescent screen placed close behind the body, referred to the brightness 
which the screen shows under the same circumstances, though without the 
interposition of the body. 

f For brevity's sake I shall use the expression " rays"; and to distinguish 
them from others of this name I shall call them " X-rays." (See p. 11.) 

4 



RONTGEN RAYS 

useful. A rod of wood with a square cross -section (20 x 20 
millimetres), one of whose sides is painted white with lead paint, 
behaves differently according as to how it is held between the 
apparatus and the screen. It is almost entirely without action 
when the X-rays pass through it parallel to the painted side ; 
whereas the stick throws a dark shadow when the rays are 
made to traverse it perpendicular to the painted side. In a 
series similar to that of the metals themselves their salts can 
be arranged with reference to their transparency, either in the 
solid form or in solution. 

3. The experimental results which have now been given, 
as well as others, lead to the conclusion that the transpar- 
ency of different substances, assumed to be of equal thick- 
ness, is essentially conditioned upon their density : no other 
property makes itself felt like this, certainly to so high a de- 
gree. 

The following experiments show, however, that the density 
is not the only cause acting. I have examined, with reference 
to their transparency, plates of glass, aluminium, calcite, and 
quartz, of nearly the same thickness ; and while these sub- 
stances are almost equal in density, yet it was quite evident 
that the calcite was sensibly less transparent than the other 
substances, which appeared almost exactly alike. No particu- 
larly strong fluorescence (see p. 6 below) of calcite, especially 
by comparison with glass, has been noticed. 

4. All substances with increase in thickness become less 
transparent. In order to find a possible relation between trans- 
parency and thickness, I have made photographs (see p. 6 be- 
low) in which portions of the photographic plate were covered 
with layers of tin-foil, varying in the number of sheets super- 
posed. Photometric measurements of these will be made when 
I am in possession of a suitable photometer. 

5. Sheets of platinum, lead, zinc, and aluminium were rolled 
of such thickness that all appeared nearly equally transparent. 
The following table contains the absolute thickness of these 
sheets measured in millimetres, the relative thickness referred 
to that of the platinum sheet, and their densities : 

5 



MEMOIRS ON 



Thickness 


Relative Thickness 


Density 


Pt 0.018 mm. 


1 


21.5 


Pb 0.05 " 


3 


11.3 


Zn 0.10 " 


6 


7.1 


Al 3.5 


200 


2.6 



We may conclude from these values that different metals 
possess transparencies which are by no means equal, even when 
the product of thickness and density are the same. The trans- 
parency increases much more rapidly than this product de- 
creases. 

6. The fluorescence of barium platino - cyanide is not the 
only recognizable effect of the X-rays. It should be mentioned 
that other bodies also fluoresce ; such, for instance, as the phos- 
phorescent calcium compounds, then uranium glass, ordinary 
glass, calcite, rock-salt, and so on. 

Of special significance in many respects is the fact that 
photographic dry plates are sensitive to the X-rays. We are, 
therefore, in a condition to determine more definitely many 
phenomena, and so the more easily to avoid deception; wher- 
ever it has been possible, therefore, I have controlled, by means 
of photography, every important observation which I have made 
with the eye by means of the fluorescent screen. 

In these experiments the property of the rays to pass almost 
unhindered through thin sheets of wood, paper, and tin-foil is 
most important. The photographic impressions can be ob- 
tained in a non-darkened room with the photographic plates 
either in the holders or wrapped up in paper. On the other 
hand, from this property it results as a consequence that un- 
developed plates cannot be left for a long time in the neighbor- 
hood of the discharge-tube, if they are protected merely by the 
usual covering of pasteboard and paper. 

It appears questionable, however, whether the chemical ac- 
tion on the silver salts of the photographic plates is directly 
caused by the X-rays. It is possible that this action proceeds 
from the fluorescent light which, as noted above, is produced 



RONTGEN RAYS 

in the glass plate itself or perhaps in the layer of gelatin. 
" Films " can be used just as well as glass plates. 

I haye not yet been able to prove experimentally that the 
X-rays are able also to produce a heating action; yet we may 
well assume that this effect is present, since the capability of 
the X-rays to be transformed is proved by means of the ob- 
served fluoresence phenomena. It is certain, therefore, that 
all the X-rays which fall upon a substance do not leave it again 
as such. 

The retina of the eye is not sensitive to these rays. Even if 
the eye is brought close to the discharge-tube, it observes noth- 
ing, although, as experiment has proved, the media contained 
in the eye must be sufficiently transparent to transmit the 
rays. 

7. After I had recognized the transparency of various sub- 
stances of relatively considerable thickness, I hastened to see 
how the X-rays behaved on passing through a prism, and to 
find whether they were thereby deviated or not. 

Experiments with water and with carbon disulphide enclosed 
in mica prisms of about 30° refracting angle showed no devia- 
tion, either with the fluorescent screen or on the photographic 
plate. For purposes of comparison the deviation of rays of 
ordinary light under the same conditions was observed ; and it 
was noted that in this case the deviated images fell on the 
plate about 10 or 20 millimetres distant from the direct image. 
By means of prisms made of hard rubber and of aluminium, 
also of about 30° refracting angle, I have obtained images 
on the photographic plate in which some small deviation may 
perhaps be recognized. However, the fact is quite uncertain; 
the deviation, if it does exist, being so small that in any case 
the refractive index of the X-rays in the substances named 
cannot be more than 1.05 at the most. With a fluorescent 
screen I was also unable to observe any deviation. 

Up to the present time experiments with prisms of denser 
metals have given no definite results, owing to their feeble 
transparency and the consequently diminished intensity of the 
transmitted rays. 

7 



MEMOIRS ON 

With reference to the general conditions here involved on 
the one hand, and on the other to the importance of the ques- 
tion whether the X-rays can be refracted or not on passing 
from one medium into another, it is most fortunate that this 
subject may be investigated in still another way than with 
the aid of prisms. Finely divided bodies in sufficiently thick 
layers scatter the incident light and allow only a little of it 
to pass, owing to reflection and refraction ; so that if powders 
are as transparent to X-rays as the same substances are in mass 
— equal amounts of material being presupposed — it follows at 
once that neither refraction nor regular reflection takes place 
to any sensible degree. Experiments were tried with finely 
powdered rock-salt, with fine electrolytic silver-powder, and 
with zinc-dust, such as is used in chemical investigations. In 
all these cases no difference was detected between the trans- 
parency of the powder and that of the substance in mass, 
either by observation with the fluorescent screen or with the 
photographic plate. 

From what has now been said it is obvious that the X-rays 
cannot be concentrated by lenses ; neither a large lens of hard 
rubber nor a glass lens having any influence upon them. The 
shadow-picture of a round rod is darker in the middle than at 
the edge ; while the image of a tube which is filled with a sub- 
stance more transparent than its own material is lighter at the 
middle than at the edge. 

8. The question as to the reflection of the X-rays may be re- 
garded as settled, by the experiments mentioned in the pre- 
ceding paragraph, in favor of the view that no noticeable regu- 
lar reflection of the rays takes place from any of the substances 
examined. Other experiments, which I here omit, lead to the 
same conclusion. 

One observation in this connection should, however, be men- 
tioned, as at first sight it seems to prove the opposite. I ex- 
posed to the X-rays a photographic plate which was protected 
from the light by black paper, and the glass side of which was 
turned towards the discharge - tube giving the X-rays. The 
sensitive film was covered, for the most part, with polished 



RONTGEN RAYS 

plates of platinum, lead, zinc, and aluminium arranged in the 
form of a star. On the developed negative it was seen plainly 
that the darkening under the platinum, the lead, and particu- 
larly the zinc, was stronger than under the other plates, the 
aluminium having exerted no action at all. It appears, there- 
fore, that these three metals reflect the rays. Since, however, 
other explanations of the stronger darkening are conceivable, 
in a second experiment, in order to be sure, I placed between 
the sensitive film and the metal plates a piece of thin alumin- 
ium-foil, which is opaque to ultra-violet rays, but is very trans- 
parent to the X-rays. Since the same result substantially was 
again obtained, the reflection of X-rays from the metals above 
named is proved. 

If we compare this fact with the observation already men- 
tioned that powders are as transparent as coherent masses, and 
with the further fact that bodies with rough surfaces behave 
like polished bodies with reference to the passage of the X-rays, 
as shown also in the last experiment, we are led to the con- 
clusion already stated that regular reflection does not take 
place, but that bodies behave towards the X-rays as turbid 
media do towards light. 

Since, moreover, I could detect no evidence of refraction of 
these rays in passing from one medium into another, it would 
seem that X-rays move with the same velocity in all substances ; 
and, further, that this speed is the same in the medium which 
is present everywhere in space and in which the particles of 
matter are imbedded. These particles hinder the propagation 
of the X-rays, the effect being greater, in general, the more 
dense the substance concerned. 

9. Accordingly it might be possible that the arrangement of 
particles in the substance exercised an influence on its trans- 
parency; that, for instance, a piece of calcite might be trans- 
parent in different degrees for the same thickness, according as 
it is traversed in the direction of the axis, or at right angles to 
it. Experiments, however, on calcite and quartz gave a nega- 
tive result. 

10. It is well known that Lenard came to the conclusion, 



MEMOIRS ON 

from the results of his beautiful experiments on the transmis- 
sion of the cathode rays of Hittorf through a thin sheet of 
aluminium, that these rays are phenomena of the ether, and 
that they diffuse themselves through all bodies. We can say 
the same of our rays. 

In his most recent research, Lenard has determined the ab- 
sorptive power of different substances for the cathode rays, and, 
among others, has measured it for air from atmospheric press- 
ure to 4.10, 3.40, 3.10, referred to 1 centimetre, according to 
the rarefaction of the gas contained in the discharge-apparatus. 
Judging from the discharge - pressure as estimated from the 
sparking distance, I have had to do in my experiments for the 
most part with rarefactions of the same order of magnitude, 
and only rarely with less or greater ones. I have succeeded in 
comparing by means of the L. Weber photometer — I do not 
possess a better one — the intensities, taken in atmospheric air, 
of the fluorescence of my screen at two distances from the dis- 
charge-apparatus — about 100 and 200 millimetres; and I have 
found from three experiments, which agree very well with each 
other, that the intensities vary inversely as the squares of the 
distances of the screen from the discharge-apparatus. Accord- 
ingly, air absorbs a far smaller fraction of the X-rays than of 1 
the cathode rays. This result is in entire agreement with the 
observation mentioned above, that it is still possible to detect 
the fluorescent light at a distance of 2 metres from the dis- 
charge-apparatus. 

Other substances behave in general like air; they are more 
transparent to X-rays than to cathode rays. 

11. A further difference, and a most important one, between 
the behavior of cathode rays and of X-rays lies in the fact 
that I have not succeeded, in spite of many attempts, in ob- 
taining a deflection of the X-rays by a magnet, even in very in- 
tense fields. 

The possibility of deflection by a magnet has, up to the pres- 
ent time, served as a characteristic property of the cathode 
rays; although it was observed by Hertz and Lenard that there 
are different sorts of cathode rays, " which are distinguished 

10 



RONTGEN RAYS 

from each other by their production of phosphorescence, by the 
amount of their absorption, and by the extent of their deflec- 
tion by a magnet." A considerable deflection, however, was 
noted in all of the cases investigated by them ; so that I do not 
think that this characteristic will be given up except for strin- 
gent reasons. 

12. According to experiments especially designed to test the 
question, it is certain that the spot on the wall of the dis- 
charge-tube which fluoresces the strongest is to be considered 
as the main centre from which the X-rays radiate in all direc- 
tions. The X-rays proceed from that spot where, according 
to the data obtained by different investigators, the cathode 
rays strike the glass wall. If the cathode rays within the dis- 
charge-apparatus are deflected by means of a magnet, it is ob- 
served that the X-rays proceed from another spot — namely, 
from that which is the new terminus of the cathode rays. 

For this reason, therefore, the X-rays, which it is impossible 
to deflect, cannot be cathode rays simply transmitted or re- 
flected without change by the glass wall. The greater density 
of the gas outside of the discharge-tube certainly cannot ac- 
count for the great difference in the deflection, according to 
Lenard. 

I therefore reach the conclusion that the X-rays are not 
identical with the cathode rays, but that they are produced by 
the cathode rays at the glass wall of the discharge-apparatus. 

13. This production does not take place in glass alone, but, 
as I have been able to observe in an apparatus closed by a 
plate of aluminium 2 millimetres thick, in this metal also. 
Other substances are to be examined later. 

14. The justification for calling by the name "rays " the 
agent which proceeds from the Avail of the discharge-apparatus 
I derive in part from the entirely regular formation of shad- 
ows, which are seen when more or less transparent bodies are 
brought between the apparatus and the fluorescent screen (or 
the photographic plate). 

I have observed, and in part photographed, many shadow- 
pictures of this kind, the production of which has a particular 

11 



MEMOIRS ON 

charm. I possess, for instance, photographs of the shadow of 
the profile of a door which separates the rooms in which, on 
one side, the discharge-apparatus was placed, on the other the 
photographic plate; the shadow of the bones of the hand; the 
shadow of a covered wire wrapped on a wooden spool ; of a set 
of weights enclosed in a box ; of a galvanometer in which the 
magnetic needle is entirely enclosed by metal; of a piece of 
metal whose lack of homogeneity becomes noticeable by means 
of the X-rays, etc. 

Another conclusive proof of the rectilinear propagation of 
the X-rays is a pin-hole photograph which I was able to make 
of the discharge-apparatus while it was enveloped in black pa- 
per ; the picture is weak but unmistakably correct. 

15. I have tried in many ways to detect interference phe- 
nomena of the X-rays; but, unfortunately, without success, 
perhaps only because of their feeble intensity. 

16. Experiments have been begun, but are not yet finished, 
to ascertain whether electrostatic forces affect the X-rays in 
any way. 

17. In considering the question what are the X-rays — which, 
as we have seen, cannot be cathode rays — we may perhaps at 
first be led to think of them as ultra-violet light, owing to their 
active fluorescence and their chemical actions. But in so doing 
we find ourselves opposed by the most weighty considerations. 
If the X-rays are ultra-violet light, this light must have the 
following properties: 

(a) On passing from air into water, carbon disulphide, alu- 
minium, rock-salt, glass, zinc, etc., it suffers no noticeable re- 
fraction. 

{b) By none of the bodies named can it be regularly reflected 
to any appreciable extent. 

(c) It cannot be polarized by any of the ordinary methods. 

(d) Its absorption is influenced by no other property of 
substances so much as by their density. 

That is to say, we must assume that these ultra-violet rays 
behave entirely differently from the ultra -red, visible, and 
ultra-violet rays which have been known up to this time. 

13 



RONTGEN RAYS 

I have been unable to come to this conclusion, and so have 
sought for another explanation. 

There seems to exist some kind of relationship between the 
new rays and light rays ; at least this is indicated by the for- 
mation of shadows, the fluorescence and the chemical action 
produced by them both. Now, we have known for a long time 
that there can be in the ether longitudinal vibrations besides 
the transverse light-vibrations; and, according to the views of 
different physicists, these vibrations must exist. Their exist- 
ence, it is true, has not been proved up to the present, and 
consequently their properties have not been investigated by 
experiment. 

Ought not, therefore, the new rays to be ascribed to longitu- 
dinal vibrations in the ether ? 

I must confess that in the course of the investigation I have 
become more and more confident of the correctness of this idea, 
and so, therefore, permit myself to announce this conjecture, 
although I am perfectly aware that the explanation given still 
needs further confirmation.. 

Wttrzburg, Physikalisches Institut der Universitat. 
December, 1895. 



SECOND COMMUNICATION 

Since my work must be interrupted for several weeks, I take 
the opportunity of presenting in the following paper some new 
phenomena which I have observed. 

18. It was known to me at the time of my first publication 
that X-rays can discharge electrified bodies ; and I conjecture 
that in Lenard's experiments it was the X-rays, and not the 
cathode rays, which had passed unchanged through the alu- 
minium window of his apparatus, which produced the action 
described by him upon electrified bodies at a distance. I have, 
however, delayed the publication of my experiments until I 
could contribute results which are free from criticism. 

These results can be obtained only when the observations are 
made in a space which is protected completely, not only from 

13 



MEMOIRS ON 

the electrostatic forces proceeding from the vacuum-tube, from 
the conducting wires, from the induction apparatus, etc., but is 
also closed against air which comes from the neighborhood of 
the discharge-apparatus. 

To secure these conditions I had a chamber made of zinc 
plates soldered together, which was large enough to contain 
myself and the necessary apparatus, which could be closed air- 
tight, and which was provided with an opening which could 
be closed by a zinc door. The wall opposite the door was for 
the most part covered with lead. At a place near the dis- 
charge-apparatus, which was set up outside the case, the zinc 
wall, together with the lining of sheet-lead, was cut out for a 
width of 4 centimetres; and the opening was covered again 
air-tight with a thin sheet of aluminium. The X-rays pene- 
trated through this window into the observation space. 

I observed the following phenomena : 

(a) Electrified bodies in air, charged either positively or 
negatively, are discharged if X-rays fall upon them ; and this 
process goes on the more rapidly the more intense the rays are. 
The intensity of the rays was estimated by their action on a 
fluorescent screen or a photographic plate. 

It is immaterial in general whether the electrified bodies are 
conductors or insulators. Up to the present I have not found 
any specific difference in the behavior of different bodies with 
reference to the rate of discharge ; nor as to the behavior of 
positive and negative electricity. Yet it is not impossible that 
small differences may exist. 

(b) If tlie electrified conductor be surrounded not by air but 
by a solid insulator, e. g. paraffin, the radiation has the same 
action as would result from exposure of the insulating envelope 
to a flame connected to the earth. 

(c) If this insulating envelope be surrounded by a close- 
fitting conductor which is connected to the earth, and which, 
like the insulator, is transparent to X-rays, the radiation pro- 
duces on the inner electrified conductor no action which can 
be detected by my apparatus. 

(d) The observations noted under (a), (h), (c) indicate that 

14 



RONTGEN RAYS 

air through which X-rays have passed possesses the power of 
discharging electrified bodies with which it comes in con- 
tact. 

(e) If this is really the case, and if, further, the air retains 
this property for some time after it has been exposed to the 
X-rays, then it must be possible to discharge electrified bodies 
which have not been themselves exposed to the rays, by con- 
ducting to them air which has thus been exposed. 

We may convince ourselves in various ways that this con- 
clusion is correct. One method of experiment, although per- 
haps not the simplest, I shall describe. 

I used a brass tube 3 centimetres wide and 45 centimetres 
long; at a distance of some centimetres from one end a part 
of the wall of the tube was cut away and replaced by a thin 
aluminium plate ; at the other end, through an air-tight cap, a 
brass ball fastened to a metal rod was introduced into the tube 
in such a manner as to be insulated. Between the ball and the 
closed end of the tube there was soldered a side-tube which 
could be connected with an exhaust-apparatus ; so that when 
this is in action the brass ball is subjected to a stream of air 
which on its way through the tube has passed by the alumin- 
ium window. The distance from the window to the ball was 
over 20 centimetres. 

I arranged this tube inside the zinc chamber in such a posi- 
tion that the X-rays could enter through the aluminium win- 
dow of the tube perpendicular to its axis. The insulated ball 
lay then in the shadow, out of the range of the action of these 
rays. The tube and the zinc case were connected by a con- 
ductor, the ball was joined to a Hankel electroscope. 

It was now observed that a charge (either positive or nega- 
tive) given to the ball was not influenced by the X-rays so 
long as the air remained at rest in the tube, but that the 
charge instantly decreased considerably if by exhaustion the 
air which had been subjected to the rays was drawn past the 
ball. If by means of storage cells the ball was maintained at a 
constant potential, and if the modified air was drawn continu- 
ously through the tube, an electric current arose just as if 

15 



MEMOIRS ON 

the ball were connected to the wall of the tube by a poor 
conductor. 

(/) The question arises, How does the air lose the property 
which is given it by the X-rays ? It is not yet settled whether 
it loses this property gradually of itself — i. e., without coming 
in contact with other bodies. On the other hand, it is certain 
that a brief contact with a body of large surface, which does 
not need to be electrified, can make the air inactive. For in- 
stance, if a thick enough stopper of wadding is pushed into the 
tube so far that the modified air must pass through it before it 
reaches the electrified ball, the charge on the ball remains un- 
affected even while the exhaustion is taking place. 

If the wad is in front of the aluminium window, the result 
obtained is the same as it would be without the wad; a proof 
that it is not particles of dust which are the cause of the ob- 
served discharge. 

Wire gratings act like wadding; but the gratings must be 
very fine, and many layers must be placed over each other if 
the modified air is to be inactive after it is drawn through 
them. If these gratings are not connected to the earth, as has 
been assumed, but are connected to a source of electric- 
ity at a constant potential, I have always observed exactly 
what I had expected ; but these experiments are not yet com- 
pleted. 

(g) If the electrified bodies, instead of being in air, are 
placed in dry hydrogen, they are also discharged by the X-rays. 
The discharge in hydrogen seemed to me to proceed somewhat 
more slowly ; yet this is still uncertain on account of the diffi- 
culty of obtaining exactly equal intensities of the X - rays in 
consecutive experiments. 

The method of filling the apparatus with hydrogen precludes 
the possibility that the layer of air which was originally pres- 
ent, condensed on the surface of the bodies, played any im- 
portant r6le. 

(h) In spaces which are highly exhausted the discharge of a 
body by the direct incidence of X-rays proceeds much more 
slowly — in one case about seventy times more slowly — than in 

16 



RONTGEN RAYS 

the same vessels when filled with air or hydrogen at atmos- 
pheric pressure. 

(i) Experiments are about to be begun on the behavior of a 
mixture of chlorine and hydrogen under the influence of X- 
rays. 

( j) In conclusion I would like to mention that the results 
of investigations on the discharging action of X-rays in which 
the influence of the surrounding gas is not taken into account 
should be received with great caution. 

19. It is advantageous in many cases to include a Tesla ap- 
paratus (condenser and transformer) between the discharge- 
apparatus which furnishes the X-rays and the induction-coil. 
This arrangement has the following advantages: first, the dis- 
charge-apparatus is less easily penetrated and is less heated; 
second, the vacuum maintains itself for a longer time, at least 
in my self-constructed apparatus ; third, many discharge-tubes 
under these conditions give more intense X-rays. With tubes 
which have not been exhausted sufficiently or have been ex- 
hausted too much to be driven satisfactorily by the induction- 
coil alone, the addition of the Tesla transformer renders good 
service. 

The question immediately arises — and I allow myself to men- 
tion it without being able to contribute anything to its solu- 
tion at present — whether X-rays can be produced by a con- 
tinuous discharge under constant difference of potential; or 
whether variations of this potential are essential and neces- 
sary for the production of the rays. 

20. In paragraph 13 of my first memoir I announced that 
X-rays could originate not only in glass, but in aluminium also. 
In the continuation of my experiments in this direction I have 
not found any solid body which cannot, under the action of the 
cathode rays, produce X-rays. There is also no reason known 
to me why liquids and gases may not behave in the same man- 
ner. 

Quantitative differences in the behavior of different substances 
have appeared, however. If, for instance, the cathode rays 
fall upon a plate one half of which is made of platinum 0.3 
B 17 



MEMOIRS ON RONTGEN RAYS 

millimetre thick, the other half of aluminium 1 millimetre 
thick, we see on the photographic image of this double plate, 
taken by means of a pin-hole camera, that the platinum sends 
out many more X-rays from the side struck by the cathode 
rays (the front side) than does the aluminium from the same 
side. However, from the rear side the platinum emits prac- 
tically no X-rays, while the aluminium sends out relatively 
many. These last rays are produced in the front layers of the 
aluminium and pass through the plate. 

We can easily devise an explanation of this observation, yet 
it may be advisable to learn other properties of the X-rays be- 
fore so doing. 

It must be mentioned, however, that there is a practical 
importance in the facts observed. For the production of the 
most intense X-rays platinum is best suited, according to my 
experiments up to the present. I have used for some weeks 
with great success a discharge-apparatus in which the cathode 
is a concave mirror of aluminium, and the anode is a plate of 
platinum placed at the centre of curvature of the mirror and 
inclined to the axis of the mirror at an angle of 45°. 

21. The X-rays proceed in this case from the anode. I must 
conclude, though, from experiments with apparatus of different 
kinds that it is entirely immaterial, so far as the intensity of 
the X-rays is concerned, whether the place where the rays are 
produced is the anode or not. 

A discharge -apparatus was prepared specially for experi- 
ments with the alternating currents of the Tesla transformer ; in 
it both electrodes were aluminium concave mirrors whose axes 
were at right angles; at their common centre of curvature 
there was placed a platinum plate to receive the cathode rays. 
Further information will be given later as to the usefulness of 
this apparatus. 

Wurzburg, Physikalisches Institut der Universitat. 

March 9, 1896. 

18 



FURTHER OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROP- 
ERTIES OF THE X-RAYS 



BY 

W. C. RONTGEN 



THIRD COMMUNICATION 

Sitzungsbericht der Koniglichen preussischen Akademie der Wisnenschaften zu 

Berlin, 1897 — Wiedemann, Annalen der Physik und 

der Chemie, 64, 1898. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Diffusion of X-Bays 21 

Conditions Influencing Fluorescence 24 

Intensity in Different Directions 24 

Transparency ; Selective Absorption 26 

Absorption with Different Tubes; with Different Interrupters, etc 30 

"Hard" and "Soft " Tubes 32 

Connection between X-Bays and Cathode Bays 35 

Absorption by Crystals , 39 

Optical Effect of X-Bays « 39 

Diffraction of X-Bays 40 



FURTHER OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROP- 
ERTIES OF THE X-RAYS 



BY 

W. C. RONTGEN 



THIRD COMMUNICATION 

1. If an opaque plate be placed between a discharge-appara- 
tus* which is emitting intense X-rays and a fluorescent screen, 
in such a position that it shades the entire screen, there may still 
be noticed, in spite of the plate, an illumination of the barium 
platino-cyanide. This illumination can be seen even when the 
screen lies directly on the plate; and one is inclined at first 
sight to consider the plate as transparent. If, however, the 
screen lying on the plate be covered by a thick pane of glass, 
the fluorescent light becomes much weaker; and it vanishes 
entirely if, instead of using a glass plate, the screen is sur- 
rounded by a cylinder of sheet-lead 0.1 centimetre thick, which 
is closed at one end by the non- transparent plate, and at the 
other by the head of the observer. 

The phenomenon now described may be due either to diffrac- 
tion of rays of very great wave-length, or to the fact that the 
bodies which surround the discharge-apparatus and through 
which the rays pass, especially the air, themselves emit X-rays. 

* All the discharge-tubes mentioned in the following communication are 
constructed according to the principle given in paragraph 20 of my sec- 
ond paper. The greater portion of them I obtained from the firm of 
Greiner & Friedrichs, in Stutzerbach i. Th., whom I wish to thank publicly 
for the material which has been furnished me in such abundance and 
without expense. 

21 



MEMOIRS ON 




The latter explanation is the correct one, as may be proved 
with the following apparatus, among others : The figure rep- 
resents a very thick-walled glass bell-jar, 20 centimetres high 
and 10 centimetres broad, which is closed by a thick zinc plate 
cemented on. At 1 and 2 are inserted 
plates of lead in the shape of circular 
segments ; these are somewhat larger 
than half the cross -section of the jar, 
and prevent the X-rays, which enter 
through an opening in the zinc plate 
covered with a celluloid film, from reach- 
ing directly the space above the lead 
plate, 2. On the upper side of this 
sheet of lead there is fastened a small 
barium platino - cyanide screen, which 
nearly fills the entire cross-section of the 
jar. This cannot be struck either by the 

L_J ' direct rays or by such as have suffered a 

single diffuse reflection at a solid body {e.g., the glass wall). 
The jar is filled with dust-free air before each experiment. If 
X-rays are made to enter the jar in such a manner that they 
are all received upon the lead screen 1, no fluorescence is 
observed at 2 ; the fluorescent screen first begins to light up 
on the half not covered by the lead plate 2 only when by tip- 
ping the bell-jar direct radiation reaches the space between 1 
and 2. If the bell-jar is now connected to an aspirator-pump 
worked by a stream of water, it is observed that the fluores- 
cence becomes more and more weak as the exhaustion pro- 
ceeds ; but when the air is readmitted the intensity again in- 
creases. 

Since now, as I have found, the mere contact with air which 
has been exposed shortly before to X-rays does not produce any 
sensible fluorescence of the barium platino-cyanide, we must 
conclude from the experiment described that air during its ex- 
posure to radiation emits X-rays in all directions. 

If our eyes were as sensitive to X-rays as they are to light- 
rays, a discharge-apparatus in operation would appear to us 

22 



RONTGEN RAYS 

like a light burning in a room moderately filled with tobacco 
smoke ; perhaps the colors of the direct rays and of those 
coming from the particles of air might be different. 

The question as to whether the rays emitted by a body which 
is receiving radiation are of the same kind as those which are 
incident, or, in other words, whether the cause of these rays is 
diffuse reflection or a process like fluorescence, I have not yet 
been able to decide. The fact that the rays coming from the 
air are photographically active can be proved easily ; and this 
action makes itself noticeable sometimes in a way not desired 
by the observer. In order to guard against this action, as is 
often necessary in long exposures, the photographic plates must 
be protected by suitable lead casings. 

2. In order to compare the intensity of the radiation of two 
discharge - tubes, and for various other experiments, I have 
used an arrangement which is based on the principle of the 
Bouguer photometer, and which, for the sake of simplicity, I 
shall call a photometer also. A rectangular sheet of lead 35 
centimetres high, 150 centimetres long, and 0.15 centimetre 
thick, supported on a board frame, is placed vertically in the 
middle of a long table. At each side of this is placed a dis- 
charge-tube, which can be moved along the table. At one end 
of the lead strip a fluorescent screen* is so placed that each 
half receives radiation perpendicularly from one tube only. 
In effecting the measurements, adjustments are made until 
there is equal brightness of the fluorescence on the two halves. 

Some remarks on the use of this instrument may find a place 
here. It should be mentioned first that the settings are often 
made more difficult by the lack of constancy of the source of 
radiation, the tubes responding to every irregularity in the 
interruption of the primary current, such as occur with the 

* In this and other experiments the Edison fluorescent screen has proved 
most useful. This consists of a box like a stereoscope which can be held 
light-tight against the head of the observer, and whose card-board end is 
covered with barium platino-cyanide. Edison uses tungstate of calcium 
in place of barium platino-cyanide; but I prefer the latter for many 
reasons. 

23 



MEMOIRS ON 

Deprez interrupter, and especially with the Foucault instru- 
ment. Repeated settings are therefore advisable. In the sec- 
ond place, I should here enumerate the conditions which in- 
fluence the brightness of a given fluorescent screen struck by 
X-rays in such rapid succession that the eye of the observer 
can no longer detect the intermittence of the radiation. This 
brightness depends (1) upon the intensity of the radiation 
which proceeds from the platinum plate of the discharge-tube ; 
(2) very probably upon the kind of rays striking the screen, 
since all kinds of rays (see below) are not necessarily equally 
active in producing fluorescence ; (3) upon the distance of the 
screen from the centre of emission of the rays ; (4) upon the 
absorption which the rays experience on their way to the barium 
platino-cyanide screen ; (5) upon the number of discharges 
per second ; (6) upon the duration of each single discharge ; 
(7) upon the duration and the strength of the after-illumina- 
tion of the barium platino-cyanide; and (8) upon the radiation 
falling on the screen from the bodies which surround the dis- 
charge-tube. In order to avoid errors, it must always be re- 
membered that the conditions are in general like those which 
would exist if we had to compare, by means of fluorescent 
action, two intermittent sources of light of different colors, 
which are surrounded by an absorbing envelope placed in a 
turbid — or fluorescing — medium. 

3. According to paragraph 12 of my first communication, 
the point in the discharge -apparatus which is struck by the 
cathode rays is the centre of emission of the X-rays, and from 
this these rays spread out "in all directions." It becomes 
now of interest to determine how the intensity of the radiation 
varies with the direction. 

For this investigation the discharge-tubes best suited to the 
purpose are those in the shape of a sphere, with smoothly 
polished platinum plates, which are struck by the cathode rays 
at an angle of 45°. Even without further appliances we can 
recognize from the uniformly bright fluorescence of the hemi- 
spherical glass wall surrounding the platinum plate that very 
great differences of intensity in different directions do not 

24 



RONTGEN RAYS 

exist ; so that Lambert's law of emission does not hold in 
this case. Nevertheless, this fluorescence for the most part 
might still be due to the cathode rays. 

To test this question more accurately, several tubes were ex- 
amined by means of the photometer as to their radiation in 
different directions. Moreover, besides doing this, I have ex- 
posed with the same object photographic films bent into a semi- 
circle (radius 25 centimetres) about the platinum plate of the 
discharge-tube as a centre. In both experiments, however, the 
varying thickness of the different portions of the walls of the 
tube produced a disturbing action, because the X-rays, pro- 
ceeding in different directions, were unequally absorbed. Yet 
by interposing thin plates of glass I finally succeeded in mak- 
ing the thickness of glass traversed about the same. 

The result of these experiments is that the radiation through 
an imaginary hemisphere, described around the platinum plate 
as a centre, is nearly uniform almost out to the edge. It was 
not until the emission angle of the rays was about 80° that I 
noticed the beginning of a decrease in the radiation ; and even 
then this decrease was relatively very small ; so that the main' 
change in the intensity occurs between 89° and 90°. 

No difference in the kind of rays emitted at different angles 
have I been able to detect. 

As a consequence of the distribution of intensity of the X- 
rays, as now described, the images of the platinum plate which 
are received — either on a fluorescent screen or on a photo- 
graphic plate, through a pin-hole camera or with a narrow slit 
— must be more intense the greater the angle which the plati- 
num plate makes with the screen or with the photographic 
plate ; always presupposing that this angle does not exceed 
80°. By means of suitable appliances which allow comparisons 
to be made between the images received simultaneously at dif- 
ferent angles from the same discharge- tube, I have been able 
to confirm this conclusion. 

A similar case of distribution of the intensity of emitted rays 
occurs in Optics in the case of fluorescence. If a few drops of 
fluorescein solution be allowed to fall into a rectangular tank 

25 



MEMOIRS ON 

filled with water, and if at the same time we illuminate the 
tank with white or with violet light, we observe that the 
brightest fluorescence proceeds from the edges of the threads 
of the slowly sinking fluorescein — i. e., from the places where 
the emission angle of the fluorescent light is the greatest. As 
Stokes has remarked, d propos of a similar experiment, this 
phenomenon is due to the fact that the rays which produce 
fluorescence are absorbed by the fluorescein solution much 
more strongly than is the fluorescent light itself. Now it is 
worthy of note that the cathode rays, which produce the 
X-rays, are absorbed by platinum much more than are the 
X-rays, and it is easy to conjecture from this that a relation- 
ship exists between the two phenomena — the transformation of 
ordinary light into fluorescent light, and that of cathode rays 
into X-rays. A conclusive proof, of any kind, of such an as- 
sumption is not known at the present time, however. 

Moreover, with reference to the technique of the production 
of shadow pictures by means of X-rays, the observations on the 
distribution of intensity of the rays proceeding outward from 
the platinum plate have a certain importance. According to 
what has been stated above, it is advisable to place the dis- 
charge-tube in such a position that the rays used in producing 
the image shall leave the platinum plate at as great an angle as 
possible, though this should not be much over 80°. By this 
means the sharpest pictures are produced ; and, if the platinum 
plate be perfectly plane, and the construction of the tube of 
such a kind that the oblique rays pass through a not materially 
thicker glass wall than those rays which are emitted perpen- 
dicular to the platinum plate, then the radiation on the object 
suffers no loss in intensity. 

4. I have designated in my first communication by "trans- 
parency of a body" the ratio of the brightness of a fluorescent 
screen placed perpendicular to the rays, and close behind the 
body, to that which the screen shows when viewed under the 
same conditions, but with the body removed. " Specific trans- 
parency " of a body will be used to indicate the transparency of 
the body reduced to a thickness of unity ; this is equal to the 

26 



RONTGEN RAYS 

dth. root of the transparency, if d is the thickness of the layer 
traversed, measured in the direction of the rays. 

In order to determine the transparency, I have used prin- 
cipally, since my first communication, the photometer described 
above. The body to be investigated — aluminium, tin-foil, glass, 
etc., made in the form of a plate — was placed before one of the 
two equally bright fluorescent halves of the screen; and the 
inequality in brightness thus produced was made to vanish, 
either by increasing the distance of the radiating discharge- 
apparatus from the uncovered half of the screen, or by bringing 
the other tube nearer. In both cases the correctly measured 
ratio of the squares of the distances of the platinum plates of 
the discharge-tubes from the screen, before and after the dis- 
placement of the apparatus, is the desired value of the trans- 
parency of the interposed body. Both methods led to the 
same result. By the addition of a second plate to the first, the 
transparency of the second plate may be found in a similar 
manner for rays which have already passed through one. 

The method above described presupposes that the brightness 
of a fluorescent screen varies inversely as the square of its dis- 
tance from the source of rays, and this is true, in the first 
place, only if the air neither absorbs nor emits X-rays, and if, 
secondly, the brightness of the fluorescent light is proportional 
to the intensity of emission of rays of the same kind. The 
first condition is certainly not satisfied, and it is doubtful 
whether the second is ; I convinced myself long ago by ex- 
periment, as already described in paragraph 10 of my first com- 
munication, that the deviations from the law of proportion- 
ality are so small that they can be safely neglected in the case 
before us. It should be mentioned with reference to the fact 
that X-rays also proceed from the irradiated body, first, that a 
difference in the transparency of a plate of aluminium 0.925 
millimetre thick, and of 31 aluminium sheets laid upon one 
another, each of a thickness of 0.0299 millimetre — 31 x 
0.0299=0.927 — could not be detected with the photometer 
used ; and, second, that the brightness of the fluorescent 
screen was not sensibly different when the plate was close in 

27 



Tube 3 


Tube 4 


Tube 2 


0.45 


— 


0.68 


0.88 


— 


0.73 


0.30 


0.39 


0.50 


0.39 


0.54 


0.63 



MEMOIRS ON 

front of the screen and when it was placed at a greater dis- 
tance from it. 

For aluminium, the results of this experiment on trans- 
parency are as follows : 

Transparency for Perpendicular Rats 

Tube 2 

The first 1 mm. thick Al. plate 0.40 

The second 1 mm. " " " 0.55 

The first 2 mm. " " " — 

The second 2 mm. " " " — 

From these experiments, and from similar ones on glass and 
tin-foil, we deduce at once the following result : if we imagine 
a substance divided into layers of equal thickness, placed per- 
pendicular to parallel rays, each of these layers is more trans- 
parent for the transmitted rays than the one before it ; or, in 
other words, the specific transparency of a substance increases 
with its thickness. 

This result is completely in accord with what may be ob- 
served in the photograph of a tin-foil scale as described in par- 
agraph 4 of my first communication ; and also with the fact 
that in photographic pictures the shadow of thin sheets — e.g., of 
the paper used to wrap up the plate — is proportionally strongly 
marked. 

5. Even if two plates of different substances are equally 
transparent, this equality may not persist when the thickness 
of the plates is changed in the same ratio, nothing else being 
altered. This fact may be proved most easily by the help of 
two scales placed side by side ; for instance, one of platinum, 
the other of aluminium. I used for this purpose platinum-foil 
0.0026 millimetre thick, and aluminium - foil 0.0299 milli- 
metre thick. I brought the double scale before the fluores- 
cent screen, or before a photographic plate, and allowed rays 
to fall upon it ; I found in one case that a single sheet of plat- 
inum was of equal transparency with a six-fold layer of alumin- 
ium ; but that the transparency of a double platinum layer was 

28 



RONTGEN RAYS 

equal not to that of a twelve-fold layer of aluminium, but to a 
sixteeen-fold layer. Using another discharge-tube, I obtained, 
1 platinum — 8 aluminium ; 8 platinum = 90 aluminium. It 
follows from these experiments, therefore, that the ratio of the 
thickness of platinum and aluminium of equal transparency is 
smaller in proportion as the layers in question become thicker. 

6. The ratio of the thicknesses of two equally transparent 
plates of different materials depends also upon the thickness 
and the material of the body — e.g., the glass wall of the dis- 
charge-apparatus — which the rays must first traverse before 
they reach the plates in question. 

In order to prove this conclusion — which is not surprising 
after what has been said in sections 4 and 5 — we may use an 
arrangement which I call a platinum-aluminium window, and 
which, as we shall see, may also be used for other purposes. 
This consists of a rectangular piece (4.0 x 6.5 centimetres) of 
platinum-foil of 0.0026 millimetre thickness, which is cement- 
ed to a thin paper screen, and through which are punched 15 
round holes, arranged in three rows, each hole having a diame- 
ter of 0.7 centimetre. These little windows are covered with 
panes of aluminium, 0.0299 millimetre thick, which fit exact- 
ly, and are carefully superposed in such a way that at the first 
window there is one disk ; at the second, two, etc. ; finally, at 
the fifteenth, fifteen disks. If this arrangement be brought in 
front of the fluorescent screen, it may be observed very plainly, 
in case the tubes are not too hard (see below), how many alu- 
minium sheets have the same transparency as the platinum- 
foil. This number will be called the window-number. 

For the window-number I obtained in one case by direct ra- 
diation the value 5. A plate of common soda -glass, 2 milli- 
metres thick, was then held in front ; the window-number was 
10. So that the ratio of the thickness of the platinum and alu- 
minium sheets of equal transparency was reduced one -half 
when I used rays which had passed through a plate of glass 2 
millimetres thick instead of using those coming direct from the 
discharge-apparatus. Q. E. D. 

The following experiment also deserves mention in this 

29 



MEMOIRS ON 

place: The platinum -aluminium window was laid upon a 
small package which contained 12 photographic films, and was 
then exposed ; after development, the first film lying under 
the window showed the window-number 10, the twelfth the 
number 13 ; and the others, in proper order, the transition 
from 10 to 13. 

7. The experiments communicated in sections 4, 5, and 6 
refer to the modifications which the X-rays coming from a dis- 
charge-tube experience on passing through different substances. 
It will now be proved that one and the same substance, with 
the same thickness traversed, may be transparent in different 
degrees to rays which are emitted by different tubes. 

In the following table are given, for this purpose, the values 
of the transparency of an aluminium plate 2 millimetres thick 
for rays produced in different tubes. Some of these values are 
taken from the first table on page 28 : 

Transparency for Perpendicular Radiation 

TCTBES 

1 2 3 4 2 5 

of an Al. plate 2 mm. thick, 0.0044 0.22 0.30 0.39 0.50 0.59 

The discharge - tubes are not materially different in their 
construction or in the thickness of their glass walls, but vary 
mainly in the degree of exhaustion of the contained gas and in 
the discharge -potential which is conditioned by this; tube 1 
requires the lowest, tube 5 the highest, potential ; or, as we 
shall say, to be brief, tube 1 is the "softest," tube 5 the 
"hardest." The same induction-coil — in direct connection 
with the tubes — the same interrupter, and the same strength of 
current in the primary were used in all the cases. 

All the many other bodies which I have investigated behave 
in the same manner as aluminium ; all are more transparent 
for the rays of a harder tube than for those of a softer one.* 
This fact seems to me to be worthy of special consideration. 

* See below for the behavior of " non normal " tubes. 
30 



RONTGEN RAYS 

The ratio of the thicknesses of two equally transparent 
plates of different substances is also dependent upon the hard- 
ness of the tube used. This may be recognized immediately 
with the platinum-aluminium window (§ 5) ; with a very soft 
tube, for example, the window-number may be found to be 2 ; 
while with a tube which is very hard, but otherwise the same, 
the scale which reaches No. 15 does not extend far enough. 
This means, then, that the ratio of the thicknesses of platinum 
and aluminium of equal transparency is smaller in proportion 
as the tubes from which the rays come are harder, or — with 
reference to the result reported above — as the rays are less 
easily absorbed. 

The different behavior of rays produced in tubes of different 
hardness is self-evident also in the familiar shadow-pictures of 
hands, etc. With a very soft tube, dark pictures are obtained 
in which the bones are not very prominent ; by using a harder 
tube the bones are very plain and all the details are visible, the 
soft parts, on the contrary, being weak; while with an ex- 
tremely hard tube only faint shadows are obtained, even of the 
bones. From what has been said it follows that the choice of 
the tube to be used must depend upon the constitution of the 
object to be pictured. 

8. It still remains to note that the quality of the rays fur- 
nished by one and the same tube depends upon a variety of 
conditions. As the investigation made with the platinum- 
aluminium window shows, this is influenced : (1) By the man- 
ner and perfection with which the Deprez or Foucault inter- 
rupter* works— i. e., by the variation of the primary current; 
to this belongs the phenomenon so often observed, that single 
discharges out of a rapid succession produce X-rays which are 
not only particularly intense, but which are distinguished from 
the others by the [slight] extent to which they are absorbed ; (2) 
by a spark-gap which is included in the secondary circuit of 
the discharge-apparatus ; (3) by including in the circuit a Tesla 

* A good Deprez interrupter works more regularly than a Foucault 
apparatus ; the latter, however, utilizes the primary current better. 

31 



MEMOIRS ON 

transformer ; (4) by the degree of exhaustion of the discharge- 
apparatus (as already mentioned) ; (5) by different conditions 
in the interior of the discharge-tube, which are not yet suffi- 
ciently understood. Several of these factors deserve a some- 
what more extended consideration. 

If we take a tube which has not yet been used, nor even ex- 
hausted, and connect it to the mercury-pump, we shall obtain, 
after the necessary pumping and heating, such a degree of ex- 
haustion that the first X-rays are noticeable by means of the 
feeble illumination of the fluorescent screen lying near. A 
spark-gap in parallel with the tube gives sparks only a few 
millimetres long, the platinum-aluminium window shows only 
very low numbers, the rays are easily absorbed. The tube is 
"very soft." If now the spark-gap be put in series, or a Tesla 
transformer be inserted,* rays are emitted which are more 
intense and less easily absorbed. I found, for example, in one 
case, that by increasing the series spark-gap the window-num- 
ber could be gradually brought from 2.5 to 10. 

(These observations suggested the question whether at still 
higher pressures X-rays could not be obtained by the use of a 
Tesla transformer. This is, in fact, the case : using a narrow 
tube with wire-shaped electrodes, I could still observe X-rays 
when the pressure of the enclosed air amounted to 3.1 milli- 
metres of mercury. If hydrogen were used instead of air, the 
pressure could be even higher. The lowest pressure at which 
X-rays can be produced in air I have not been able to deter- 
mine ; it is in many cases less than 0.0002 millimetre of mer- 
cury ; so that the limits of pressure within which X-rays may 
arise are even now very considerable.) 

Further exhaustion of a "very soft " tube — connected di- 
rectly to the induction-coil — results in the radiation becoming- 
more intense, and in a greater fraction of it passing through 



* The fact that a spark-gap in series has the same effect as a Tesla trans- 
former I was able to mention in the French edition of my second com- 
munication {Arch, cles Sci. Physique, etc., de Geneve, 1896); in the German 
publication this remark was omitted by accident. 

32 



RONTGEN RAYS 

the bodies on which it falls : a hand held in front of the fluo- 
rescent screen is more transparent than before, and the plati- 
num-aluminium window gives a higher window-number. At 
the same time the spark-gap in parallel with the tube must be 
increased in length in order to send the discharge through the 
tube : the tube has become " harder." If the tube is exhaust- 
ed still more, it becomes so "hard" that the spark-gap must 
be made more than 20 centimetres long ; and now the tube 
emits rays for which substances are unusually transparent : 
plates of iron 4 centimetres thick, for example, being seen to 
be transparent when viewed with the fluorescent screen. 

The behavior, as now given, of a tube directly connected 
both with the pump and the induction-coil is the normal one ; 
but there often occur variations which are caused by the dis- 
charges themselves. The conduct of the tubes is in many 
cases quite unaccountable. 

We have supposed the tube to become hard owing to con- 
tinued exhaustion by the pump ; this may happen in another 
way. A fairly hard tube, sealed off from the pump, becomes 
of itself continually harder — unfortunately for the duration of 
its usefulness — even when it is used in the proper way for the 
production of X-rays ; that is to say, when discharges are sent 
through it which do not cause the platinum to glow, or at least 
only faintly. A gradual self-exhaustion takes place. 

With such a tube, which has become hard in this way, I have 
obtained a most beautiful photographic shadow-picture of the 
double barrels of a hunting-rifle with cartridges in place, in 
which all the details of the cartridges, the internal faults of the 
damask barrels, etc., could be seen most distinctly and sharply. 
The distance from the platinum plate of the discharge -tube 
to the photographic plate was 15 centimetres, the time of 
exposure was 12 minutes — comparatively long owing to the 
small photographic action of these rays, which are less absorb- 
able (see below). The Deprez interrupter must be replaced by 
the Foucault apparatus. It would be of interest to construct 
tubes which require still higher potentials to be used than has 
been possible up to the present time, 
c 33 



MEMOIRS ON 

As to the cause of a tube's becoming hard when sealed off 
from the pump, the explanation given above is the self - ex- 
haustion of the tribe owing to the discharges. But this is not 
the only cause ; there are also changes at the electrodes which 
influence the result. What they consist in I do not know., 

A tube which has become too hard can be made softer by ad- 
mission of air, often also by heating the tube or by reversing 
the direction of the current ; or, finally, by sending powerful 
discharges through it. In the last case, however, the tube has 
acquired, for the most part, other properties than those men- 
tioned above ; thus it often requires, for instance, a very great 
discharge-potential, and yet furnishes rays which have a com- 
paratively small window-number and which are easily absorbed. 
I need not continue further the discussion of the behavior of 
the "non-normal" tubes. The tubes constructed by Herr 
Zehnder, having a vacuum which can be regulated, since they 
contain a small piece of charcoal, have done me very good 
service. 

The observations communicated in this section, and others 
also, have led me to the opinion that the composition of the 
rays emitted from a discharge-tube provided with a platinum 
anode is conditioned essentially upon the duration of the dis- 
charge-current. The degree of exhaustion, the hardness, play 
a part only because of this, since the form of the discharge de- 
pends upon it. If we can produce in any way whatever the 
form of discharge necessary for the appearance of the X-rays, 
X-rays can be produced, and this even at relatively high 
pressures. 

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the quality of the 
rays produced by a tube is not changed, or, at most, only very 
slightly, by very considerable changes in the strength of the 
primary current, it being presupposed that the interrupter 
works the same in all cases. The intensity of the X-rays, 
on the contrary, is proportional within certain limits to the 
strength of the primary current, as the following experiment 
shows : The distances from the discharge-apparatus at which, 
in a certain case, the fluorescence of the barium platino-cyanide 

34 



RONTGEN RAYS 

screen was just noticeable amounted to 18.1 millimetres, 25.7 
millimetres, and 37.5 millimetres, when the strength of the 
primary current was increased from 8 to 16 to 32 amperes. 
The squares of the distances are in nearly the same ratio as the 
corresponding current-strengths. 

9. The results stated in the last five paragraphs were derived 
immediately from the individual experiments mentioned. If 
we review the whole of these individual results, we reach the 
following conclusions, being led to them in part by the analogy 
which exists between the behavior of optical rays and X-rays : 

(a) The rays emitted by a discharge - apparatus consist of a 
mixture of rays which are absorbed in different degrees and 
which have different intensities. 

(b) The composition of this mixture of rays depends essen- 
tially upon the duration of the discharge-current. 

(c) The rays selected for absorption by various substances 
are different for the different bodies. 

(d) Since the X-rays are generated by the cathode rays, and 
since both have properties in common — production of fluores- 
cence, photographic and electrical action, and absorbability, 
the amount of which is essentially conditioned upon the density 
of the medium through which the radiation passes, etc. — the 
hypothesis at once suggests itself that both phenomena are of 
the same nature. Without wishing to bind myself uncondi- 
tionally to this view, I may remark that the results of the last 
few paragraphs are calculated to resolve a difficulty which has 
existed in connection with this hypothesis up to the present. 
This difficulty arises, first, from the great difference between the 
absorption of the cathode rays investigated by Herr Lenard 
and that of the X-rays ; and, second, from the fact that the 
transparency of bodies for these cathode rays depends upon a 
different law of the densities of the bodies from that govern- 
ing the transparency for the X-rays. 

As to the first difficulty, two points should be mentioned : 
(1) We have seen in § 7 that there are X-rays whose absorp- 
tions are very different ; and we know from the investigations 
of Hertz and Lenard that the different cathode rays also differ 

35 



MEMOIRS ON 

from each other with reference to their absorption. Even if 
we admit, therefore, that the softest tube mentioned on p. 30 
furnishes X-rays whose absorption is far less than that of the 
cathode rays investigated by Herr Lenard, yet we cannot doubt 
that there are X-rays which are absorbed more, and, on the 
other hand, cathode rays which are absorbed less even than 
those. It therefore seems perfectly possible that by further 
experiments rays will be found which form, so far as absorp- 
tion is concerned, the link between the one kind of rays and 
the other.' (2) We found in § 4 that the specific transparency of 
a body is smaller in proportion as the plate traversed is thinner. 
Consequently, if in our experiments we had taken plates as 
thin as those of Herr Lenard, we might have obtained values 
for the absorption of the X-rays which would approximate 
more closely those of Lenard. 

With reference to the varying influence of the density of bod- 
ies on their absorption of X-rays and of cathode rays, it should 
be said that this difference is found to be smaller in proportion 
as more strongly absorbable X-rays are chosen for the experi- 
ment (§ 7 and § 8), and in proportion as the plates traversed 
are made thinner (§ 5). Consequently, one must acknowledge 
the possibility that this difference in the behavior of the two 
kinds of rays may, by means of further experiments, be made 
to vanish at the same time as the differences mentioned above. 

With reference to this absorbability, the rays which come 
nearest to each other are the cathode rays which are especially 
present in very hard tubes and the X-rays which are emitted 
from the platinum plate in very soft tubes. 

10. Besides exciting fluorescence, the X-rays have, as is well 
known, photographic, electric, and other actions ; and it is of 
interest to know how far these continue parallel with each 
other as the source of radiation is altered. I have been obliged 
to confine myself to comparing the two actions first named. 

The platinum -aluminium window is suited for this work 
also. One of these is placed upon a photographic plate which 
is wrapped up, a second is brought in front of the fluorescent 
screen, and both are then placed at equal distances from the 

36 



RONTGEN KAYS 

discharge-apparatus. The X-rays had exactly the same media 
to traverse in order to reach the sensitive layer of the photo- 
graphic plate and the barium platino - cyanide. During the 
exposure I observed the screen and determined the window- 
number ; after development, the window-number was also de- 
termined upon the photographic plate ; and then both num- 
bers were compared. The result of these experiments is that, 
using softer tubes (window-numbers 4-7), no difference could be 
observed ; but when harder tubes were used it seemed to me 
that the window-number on the photographic plate was a little 
lower, at most one unit, than that determined by means of the 
fluorescent screen. This observation, however, although re- 
peatedly confirmed, is not quite free from criticism, because the 
determination of the high window-numbers at the fluorescent 
screen is quite uncertain. 

The following result is, however, entirely certain. If we 
arrange, with the photometer described in § 2, a hard and a 
soft tube so as to have the same brightness at the fluorescent 
screen, and if a photographic plate is substituted for the 
screen, we see after development of this plate that the half of 
the plate which received the rays from the hard tube is con- 
siderably less blackened than the other. The radiations which 
produce equal intensities of fluorescence have different photo- 
graphic actions. 

In considering this result we must not leave out of account 
the fact that neither the fluorescent screen nor the photo- 
graphic plate uses up completely the incident rays ; both 
transmit many rays which can again produce fluorescent or 
photographic action. The result communicated holds true, 
therefore, only for the thickness of the sensitive photographic 
film employed and the layer of barium platino-cyanicle accom- 
panying it. 

How very transparent to the X-rays from tubes of average 
hardness the sensitive film of the photographic plate is is 
shown by an experiment with 96 "films " laid one over another, 
25 centimetres distant from the source of radiation, exposed 
for 5 minutes, and protected against the radiation of the air 

37 



MEMOIRS ON 

by an envelope of lead. Even on the last one a photographic 
action can be recognized plainly, while the first is scarcely 
over-exposed. Induced by this and similar observations, I have 
inquired of several firms who furnish photographic plates 
whether it would not be possible to prepare plates which were 
more suited for photography with X-rays than the ordinary 
ones. The samples forwarded were not, however, serviceable. 

I have had many opportunities, as mentioned already on 
p. 31, to perceive that very hard tubes, under otherwise equal 
circumstances, require a longer time of exposure than those 
moderately hard ; this is easily understood if we remember the 
result communicated in § 9, according to which all bodies so 
far examined are more transparent for rays which are emitted 
by hard tubes than for those coming from soft ones. The fact 
that with very soft tubes the exposure must again be long is 
explained by the lack of intensity of the rays emitted by tfiem. 

If the intensity of the rays is increased by increasing the 
primary current (see p. 31), the photographic action is in- 
creased in the same degree as the intensity of the fluores- 
cence ; and in this case, as also in that mentioned above where 
the intensity of the radiation on the fluorescent screen is al- 
tered by changing the distance of the screen from the source of 
the rays, the brightness of the fluorescence is proportional, or 
at least nearly so, to the intensity of the radiation. This law 
cannot, however, be applied generally. 

11. In conclusion, I beg the privilege of mentioning the fol- 
lowing isolated points : 

In a discharge-tube properly made and not too soft, the X- 
rays come mainly from a spot on the platinum plate struck by 
the cathode rays, which is from 1 to 2 millimetres in size. But 
this is not the only starting-point : the whole plate and a part 
of the wall of the tube emit rays, although to a very small ex- 
tent. Cathode rays proceed, from the cathode in all directions ; 
their intensity, however, is important only in the neighborhood 
of the axis of the concave mirror ; and therefore the most in- 
tense X-rays originate on the platinum plate at the point where 
this axis meets it. If the tube is very hard and the platinum 

33 



RONTGEN RAYS 

thin, a great many X-rays are emitted from the rear side of the 
platinum plate, and, as is shown by a pin-hole camera, from a 
point which also lies on the axis of the mirror. 

In these hardest tubes, also, the maximum of intensity of the 
cathode rays can be deflected from the platinum plate by means 
of a magnet. Some experiments on soft tubes led me to take 
up again, with better apparatus, the question of the possibility 
of magnetic deflection of X-rays ; I hope to be able to com- 
municate soon the results of these experiments. 

The experiments mentioned in my first communication on 
the transparency of plates of the same thickness which are cut 
from a crystal according to different directions have been con- 
tinued. I have investigated plates of calcite, quartz, tourma- 
line, beryl, aragonite, apatite, and barite. No influence of di- 
rection on the transparency could be detected even with the 
improved apparatus. 

The fact observed by Herr G-. Brandes, that the X-rays can 
produce a light-sensation in the retina of the eye, I have found 
confirmed. There stands also in my observation-journal a note 
at the beginning of the month of November, 1895, according to 
which I perceived a feeble light-sensation, which spread over 
the whole field of vision, when I was in an entirely darkened 
room near a wooden door on the other side of which there 
was a Hittorf tube, whenever discharges were sent through the 
tube. Since I observed this phenomenon only once, I thought 
it a subjective one, and the fact that I never saw it repeated is 
because, later, instead of the Hittorf tube, other apparatus was 
used, not exhausted so much, and not provided with platinum 
anodes. On account of their state of high exhaustion, Hittorf 
tubes furnish rays which are only slightly absorbed, and on ac- 
count of the presence of a platinum anode, which is struck by 
the cathode rays, they furnish intense rays, a condition which is 
favorable for the production of the light-phenomenon referred 
to. I was obliged to replace the Hittorf tubes by others, be- 
cause after a very short while all were perforated. 

With the hard tubes now in general use the experiment of 
Brandes may be easily repeated. The following description of 

39 



MEMOIRS ON RONTGEN RAYS 

the mode of experimenting may be of some interest : If a ver- 
tical metal slit some tenths of a millimetre broad is held as 
close as possible before the open or closed eye, and if the head, 
completely enveloped in a black cloth, is then brought near the 
discharge apparatus, there is observed, after some practice, a 
weak, non-uniformly bright strip of light which, according to 
the place where the slit is in front of the eye, takes a different 
form — straight, curved, or circular. By a slow motion of the 
slit in a horizontal direction, these different forms can be made 
to pass gradually from one into the other. An explanation of 
the phenomenon is found immediately if we consider that the 
ball of the eye is cut by a lamellar sheaf of X-rays, and if we 
assume that the X-rays can excite fluorescence in the retina. 

Since the beginning of my work on X-rays I have tried re- 
peatedly to obtain diffraction phenomena with them; several 
times I have obtained with narrow slits, etc., phenomena whose 
appearance reminded one, it is true, of diffraction images ; but 
when by alteration of the conditions of experiment tests were 
made of the correctness of the explanation of these images by 
diffraction, it was refuted in every case ; and often I could 
prove directly that the phenomena had arisen in a way quite 
different from diffraction. I have no experiment to describe 
from which, with sufficient certainty, I could obtain proof of the 
existence of diffraction of the X-rays. 

Wurzburg, Physikalisches Institut der Universitat. 
March 10, 1897. 

Wilhelm Cokrad Roktgest was born March 27, 1845, in 
Lennep, Rhine Province, Germany, and is at the present time 
Professor of Physics at the University of Wurzburg. He re- 
ceived his doctor's degree at Zurich in 1868, and became then 
an assistant to Kundt at Wurzburg. He was finally appointed 
Professor of Physics at Giessen, from which university he was 
transferred to Wurzburg. He has been engaged in many im- 
portant researches which, in the main, have a bearing upon 
the connection between electricity and ordinary matter. 

40 



ON THE NATURE OF THE RONTGEN RAYS 

(THE WILDE LECTURE) 

BY 

Sir G. G. STOKES, Bart., M.A., LL.D., F.R.S. 

{Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical 
Society, 41, Part IV., 1896-7.) 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Resume of Work by Bontgen and J. J. Thomson 43 

Discussion of Properties of X-Bays 46 

Discussion of Properties of Becquerel Bays 48 

Discussion of Properties of Cathode Rays 49 

Propagation of Pulses 54 

Theory of Bontgen Bays 55 

Theory of Ordinary Befraction 58 

Theory of Becquerel Bays 62 

Diffraction of Pulses ' 63 



ON THE NATURE OF THE RONTGEN RAYS 

(THE WILDE LECTUEE) 

BY 

Sir G. G. STOKES, Bart., M.A., LL.D., F.R.S. 

Delivered July 25, 1897. 

Ever since the remarkable discovery of Professor Rontgen 
was published, the subject has attracted a great deal of atten- 
tion in all civilized countries, and numbers of physicists have 
worked experimentally, endeavoring to make out the laws of 
these rays, to determine their nature, if possible, and to ar- 
range for their application. I am sorry to say that I have not 
myself worked experimentally at the subject ; and that being 
the case, there is a certain amount of presumption, perhaps, in 
my venturing to lecture on it. Still, I have followed pretty 
well what has been done by others, and the subject borders 
very closely on one to which I have paid considerable attention ; 
that is, the subject of light. 

In Rontgen's original paper he stated that it was shown ex- 
perimentally that the seat of these remarkable rays was the 
place where the so-called cathodic rays fall on the opposite wall 
of the highly exhausted tube in which they are produced. I 
will not stop to describe what is meant by cathodic rays. It 
would take me too much away from my subject, and I may 
assume, I think, that the audience I am now addressing know 
what is meant by that term. This statement of Rontgen's was 
not, I think, universally accepted. Some experimentalists set 
themselves to investigate the point by observing the positions 
of the shadows cast by bodies subjected to the discharge of the 
Rontgen rays — to investigate, I say, the place within the tube 
from which the rays appeared to come. Now, when the shad- 

43 



MEMOIRS ON 

ows were received on a photographic plate, and the shadow was 
joined to the substance casting the shadow, and the joining 
lines were produced backwards, as a rule they tended more or 
less nearly to meet somewhere within the tube — Crookes' tube, 
I will now call it — and some people seem to have had the idea 
that at that point of meeting or approximate meeting there 
was something going on which was the source of these rays. I 
have in my hands a paper published in St. Petersburg by Prince 
B. Galitzin and A. v. Karnojitzky, which contains some very 
elaborate photographs obtained in this way. A board was taken 
and ruled with cross lines at equal intervals, and at the points 
of intersection nails were struck in in an upright position. 
The board was placed on top of the photographic plate, with 
an opaque substance between — a substance which these strange 
Rontgen rays are capable of passing through, though it is 
impervious to light. The shadows cast by the nails were ob- 
tained on the photograph, and this paper contains a number 
of the photographs. It is remarkable, considering the some- 
what large space in the tube over which the discharge from 
the cathode is spread, that the shadows are as sharp as they 
actually are ; and the same thing may be affirmed of the or- 
dinary shadows of the bones of the hand, for instance, which 
one so frequently sees now. Another remarkable point in 
these photographs is that in some cases it appears as if 
there were two shadows of the same nail, as though there 
were two different sources from which these strange rays 
come, both situated within the Crookes' tube. Now, have 
we a right to suppose that the place of meeting of the lines 
by which the shadows are formed, prolonged backwards into 
the tube, is the place which is the seat of action of these 
rays ? I think we have not. If a portion of the Crookes' 
tube which is influenced by the cathode discharge be isolat- 
ed by, we will say, a lead screen containing a small hole, you 
get a portion of the cathodic rays which come out through 
that small hole, and you can trace what becomes of them be- 
yond. It is found that the influence is decidedly stronger 
in a normal direction than in oblique directions. Professor 

44 



RONTGEN RAYS 

J. J. Thomson, of Cambridge, who has worked a great deal 
experimentally at this subject, mentioned that to me as a 
striking thing. You might imagine that the fact that the 
shadows appear to be cast approximately from a source within 
the tube could be accounted for in this way. Supposing, as 
Rontgen believed, that the seat of the rays is in the place 
where the cathode discharge falls on the surface of the glass, 
those which come in an oblique direction have to pass through 
a greater thickness of glass than those which come in a nor- 
mal direction. Now, glass is only partially transparent to 
the Rontgen rays ; therefore the oblique rays would be more 
absorbed in passing through the glass than the rays which 
come in a normal direction. I mentioned that to Professor 
Thomson, but he said he thought the difference between the 
intensity of the rays which come out obliquely and those 
which come out in a normal direction was much too great 
to be accounted for in that way.* I will take it as a fact, 
without entering at present into any speculation as to the 
reason for it, that the Rontgen rays do come out from the 
glass wall more copiously in a normal direction than in an 
oblique direction. Assuming this, we can rightly say that 



* I have found by subsequent inquiry that the experiment referred to 
was not made by Professor Thomson himself, but by Mr. C. M. McClel- 
land, in the Cavendish Laboratory, and that on being recently repeated 
with the same tube the effect of the X-rays was found to be by no means 
so much concentrated towards the normal to the wall of the tube as in the 
former experiment. It seems likely that the difference may have been due 
to use of the tube in the interval, which would have made the exhaustion 
higher, and caused the X-rays given out to be of higher penetrative power, 
so as to render the increased thickness of glass which the rays emerging 
obliquely had to pass through to be of less consequence. But the subject 
is still under examination. In consequence of the result obtained in the 
second experiment, the statement in the text should be less absolute ; but 
it may very well have happened that in the experiments of others the con- 
ditions may more nearly have agreed with those of the first experiment, 
causing what we may call the resultant activity of the X-rays to have had 
a direction leaning towards the normal drawn from the point casting the 
shadow to the wall of the tube. 

45 



MEMOIRS ON 

the results obtained by Prince Galitzin and M. v. Karnojit- 
zky, and similar results obtained by others, do not by any 
means prove that the seat of the rays is within the tube. 
Suppose, for example, that the tube were spherical, aud a por- 
tion of this spherical surface were reached by the cathodic 
rays : if the Rontgen rays which passed outside came wholly, 
we will say, in a normal direction, produce the directions 
backwards and you will get the centre of the tube. But we 
have no right to say from that that there is anything particular 
going on in the centre of the spherical tube. The result is 
perfectly compatible with Rontgen's original assertion, which I 
believe to be true, as to the seat of the rays. 

Everything tends to show that these Rontgen rays are some- 
thing which, like rays of light, are propagated in the ether. 
What, then, is the nature of this process going on in the ether ? 
Some of the properties of the Rontgen rays are very surprising, 
and very unlike what we are in the habit of considering with 
regard to rays of light. One of the most striking things is the 
facility with which they go through bodies which are utterly 
opaque to light, such, for example, as black paper, board, and 
so forth. If that stood alone it would, perhaps, not constitute 
a very important difference between them and light. A red 
glass will stop green rays and let red rays through ; and just in 
the same way if the Rontgen rays were of the nature of the or- 
dinary rays of light, it is possible that a substance, although 
opaque to light, might be transparent to them. So. as I say. 
that remarkable property, if it stood alone, would not neces- 
sarily constitute any great difference of nature between them 
and ordinary light. But there are other properties which are 
far more difficult to reconcile with the idea that the Rontgen 
ravs are of the nature of light. There is the absence, or almost 
complete absence, of refraction and reflection. Another re- 
markable property of these rays is the extreme sharpness of the 
shadows which they cast when the source of the rays is made 
sufficiently narrow. The shadows are far sharper than those 
produced under similar circumstances by light, because in the 
case of light the shadows are enlarged as the effect of diffrac- 

46 



RONTGEN RAYS 

tion. This absence, or almost complete absence, of diffraction 
is then another circumstance distinguishing these rays from or- 
dinary rays of light. In face of these remarkable differences, 
those who speculated with regard to the nature of the rays were 
naturally disposed to look in a direction in which there was 
some distinct difference from the process which we conceive to 
go on in the propagation and production of ordinary rays of 
light. Those who have speculated on the dynamical theory of 
double refraction have been led to imagine the possible exist- 
ence in the ether of longitudinal vibrations, as well as those 
transversal vibrations which we know to constitute light. If 
we were to suppose that the Rontgen rays are due to longitudi- 
nal vibrations, that would constitute such a very great difference 
of nature between them and rays of light that a very great dif- 
ference in properties might reasonably be expected. But as- 
suming that the Rontgen rays are a process which goes on in 
the ether, are the vibrations belonging to them normal or trans- 
versal ? If we could obtain evidence of the polarization of 
those rays, that would prove that the vibrations were not nor- 
mal, but transversal. But if we fail to obtain evidence of polar- 
ization, that does not at once prove that the vibrations may not 
after all be transversal, because the properties of these rays are 
such as to lead us d priori to expect great difficulties in the way 
of putting in evidence their polarization, if, indeed, they are 
capable of polarization at all. Several experimentalists have 
attempted, by means of tourmalines, to obtain evidence of 
polarization, but the result in general has been negative. Of 
the two photographic markings that ought to be of unequal 
intensity on the supposition of polarization, one could not say 
with certainty that one was darker than the other. Another 
way of obtaining polarized light is by reflection at the proper 
angle from glass or other substance ; but, unfortunately for the 
success of such a method, the Rontgen rays refuse to be regu- 
larly reflected, except to a very small extent indeed. The au- 
thors of the paper to which I have already referred appear to 
have had some success with the tourmaline. Like others who 
have worked at the same experiment, they took a tourmaline 

47 



MEMOIRS ON 

cut parallel to the axis and put on top of it two others, also cut 
parallel to the axis, and of equal thickness, which were placed 
with their axes parallel and perpendicular respectively to that 
of the under tourmaline. But they supplemented this method 
by a device which is not explained in the paper itself, although 
a memoir is referred to in which the explanation is to be found 
— at least by those who can read the Eussian language, which, 
unfortunately, I cannot. I can, therefore, only guess what the 
method was. It is something depending on the superposition of 
sensitive photographic films. I suspect they had several photo- 
graphic films superposed, took the photographs on these, and 
then took them asunder for development, and after develop- 
ment put them together again as they had been originally. 
They consider that they have succeeded in obtaining evidence 
of a certain amount of polarization. If we assume that evi- 
dence to be undoubted, it decides the question at once. But 
as the experiment, as made in this way, is rather a delicate 
one, it is important for the evidence that we should consider as 
well what we may call the Becquerel rays. If time permits, I 
shall have something to say about these towards the close of my 
lecture, but, for the present, I shall say merely that they ap- 
pear to be intermediate in their properties between the Rontgen 
rays and rays of ordinary light. The Becquerel rays undoubt- 
edly admit of polarization, and the evidence appears on the 
whole pretty conclusive that the Rontgen rays, like rays of or- 
dinary light, are due to transversal, and not to longitudinal, 
vibrations. It remains to be explained, if we can explain it, 
wherein lies the difference between the nature of the Rontgen 
rays and rays of ordinary light which accounts for the strange 
and remarkable difference in the properties of the two. I may 
mention that, although Cauchy and Neumann, and some others 
who have written on the dynamical theory of double refraction, 
have been led to the contemplation of normal vibrations, Green 
has put forward what seems to me a very strong argument 
against the existence of normal vibrations in the case of light. 
The argument G-reen used always weighed strongly with me 
against the supposition that the Rontgen rays were clue to 

48 



RONTGEN KAYS 

longitudinal vibrations ; and the experiments by which, as I 
conceive, the possibility of their polarization has now been 
established go completely in the same direction, showing that 
they are due, assuming them to be some process going on in 
the ether, to a transversal disturbance of some kind. 

Now, the so - called cathodic rays are, as we may say, the 
parents of the Eontgen rays. Consequently, if we are to ex- 
plain the nature of the Eontgen rays, it is very important that 
we should have as clear ideas as may be permissible of the nat- 
ure of the cathodic rays. Now, two views have been enter- 
tained as to the nature of the cathodic rays. According to one 
view, they are not rays of light at all, but streams of molecules 
which are projected from the cathode, and, if the exhaustion 
within the tube be sufficient, reach the opposite wall, That 
was the idea under which Orookes worked in his well-known 
experiments, and, so far as I know, it is the view held by all 
physicists in this country. Another opinion, however, has 
been published, and there are some eminent physicists who 
favor it, especially, I think, in Germany. According to this 
latter opinion, the cathodic rays are, like rays of light, some 
process going on in the ether. The cathodic ray, coming from 
the cathode towards the opposite wall of the tube, is invisible 
as such if you look across it. There is in reality a faint blue 
light ordinarily, but not necessarily, seen when you look across 
it. Lenard, in his most elaborate and remarkable experiments, 
succeeded in producing the cathodic rays within a space from 
which the gas was so very nearly completely taken away 
that, although the cathodic rays passed freely through the 
space, there was no appearance of the blue light when you 
viewed their path transversely. They produced, however, 
the ordinary effect of phosphorescence at the other end of 
the tube. The appearance, then, may be analogous to that of 
a sunbeam coming from a hole in the clouds. If it were not 
for the slight amount of dust and suspended matter in the air, 
the sunbeam would be invisible if you looked across it. But as 
the air is never free from motes, you see the path of the sun- 
beam when you look across it by the light reflected from these 
d 49 



MEMOIRS ON 

motes. Something of the same kind may be conceived to take 
place with regard to the cathodic rays if they are some process 
going on in the ether. But there are very great difficulties in 
the way of this second hypothesis, and especially as regards 
certain properties of the cathodic rays. In the first place, they 
act mechanically. In Crookes' experiments he succeeded in 
causing a light windmill, if I may so describe it, to spin rapidly 
under the action of the rays. And when they were received 
on a very thin film of blown glass, the glass was actually bent 
under them as they fell upon it. But that is not all. These 
cathodic rays appear to proceed in a normal direction from the 
cathode, and ordinarily proceed in straight lines. But — and 
this is the important point — they are capable of being deflected 
in their path both by electro-static force and by magnetic or 
electro-dynamic force. Nothing whatever of the kind occurs 
with rays of light, and there are enormous, almost insuperable, 
difficulties in the supposition of any such deflection occurring 
if the cathodic rays are a process going on in the' ether. I will 
not go into all the arguments for and against the two views, 
especially as the cathodic rays only enter incidentally into the 
subject I have chosen to bring before you. I will confine my- 
self to one or two of the chief difficulties in the way of the sup- 
position that the cathodic rays are streams of molecules. In 
his admirable experiments Lenard produced the cathodic rays 
in a tube which was highly exhausted, but not exhausted to 
the very highest degree that art can obtain. When you get to 
such tremendous exhaustions as that you cannot get the dis- 
charge to pass through the tube. What did he do ? Previous 
experiments had shown that certain metals — aluminium espe- 
cially — are, or appear to be, to a certain extent transparent to 
these rays. Working on the supposition that an aluminium 
plate is, to a certain extent, transparent to these rays, Lenard 
constructed a tube, highly exhausted, but not to the very last 
degree. Then a window of aluminium-foil — a very small aper- 
ture for mechanical reasons — was fastened in an air-tight man- 
ner at the end of the tube, to lead into a second tube provided 
with a phosphorescent screen. The cathodic rays produced in 

50 



RONTGEN RAYS 

the first tube fell upon the aluminium plate and, as Lenard 
supposed, passed through it as rays of light would pass through 
glass. And so he got them into the second tube, and, it not 
being necessary to make an electric discharge pass through the 
second tube, he could exhaust it to the very highest power of 
skill that he had. It was a work of days and days. The ca- 
thodic rays behaved in this very highly exhausted tube like ordi- 
nary cathodic rays. We are asked to assume that we are dealing 
here with a vacuum, and according to Lenard that shows — and 
no doubt it would if we grant the assumption — that it is no 
longer a question of matter, but of some process going on in 
the ether.* And, apparently on the strength of that very 
elaborate experiment, Rontgen in his first paper seems to have 
been of the opinion that the cathodic rays were something go- 
ing on in the ether. But are we justified in assuming that we 
are here dealing with a perfect vacuum ? I do not think we 
are. I believe it passes the power of art to produce a perfect 
vacuum. You always have a little residue of which you cannot 
absolutely get rid, and some of Lenard's own figures show the 
effect of the residual gas. He isolated by screens a small part 
of the cathodic discharge in the second tube, and received it 
on a phosphorescent screen. He represents the phosphores- 
cent light in the tube as consisting of a bright nucleus sur- 
rounded by a less bright halo. The bright nucleus was such as 
would be produced if the cathodic rays were rays of light, pro- 
vided that that light were incapable of diffraction. But, then, 
how do you account for the halo ? The blue light by which 
the cathodic rays are seen under ordinary circumstances is due, 
I believe, to an interference of the projected molecules with 
the molecules of the gas. In some of Lenard's experiments he 
received the cathodic rays in the first tube into the air, and a 
considerable amount of this blue light was seen. The appear- 
ance was much as if you had admitted a beam of light into a 

* Even if the vacuum were perfect, and the result were still the same, 
that would not disprove the theory that the cathodic rays are streams of 
molecules, for the molecules might have been obtained from the alumin- 
ium window itself. 

51 



MEMOIRS ON 

mixture of milk and water. To my mind this fainter halo in 
the most refined of Lenard's experiments, lying outside this 
well-defined nucleus, was evidence that the vacuum, in spite 
of all the skill and time expended upon it, was not perfect. 
And for aught we know to the contrary — I believe, indeed, it 
is the case — the cathodic rays in the second highly exhausted 
tube were really streams of molecules coming from the residual 
gas in the tube. But now comes a difficulty with regard to the 
passage of the cathodic rays through an aluminium plate. If 
the cathodic rays were something going on in the ether we might 
very well understand that an aluminium plate might be trans- 
parent to them although opaque to ordinary rays of light. But 
if the cathodic rays are. really streams of molecules, how can 
we imagine that they get through the plate ? Do they get 
through the plate ? I do not believe they do. Do they riddle 
the plate like a bullet going through a thin piece of board ? I 
do not think it. Suppose you have a trough containing a solu- 
tion of sulphate of copper, and at the ends of it you have two 
copper plates ; if you send an electric current through the 
trough, copper is eaten away at the anode and deposited at the 
cathode. Now, suppose you divide this trough into two by a 
plate of copper, you still have copper eaten away at the original 
anode and copper deposited at the original cathode. The in- 
terposed plate really divides the cell into two, in each of which 
electrolysis goes on, so that you have not only copper eaten 
away at one end of the trough and deposited at the other, but 
in your interposed plate you have copper eaten away at one 
side and deposited at the other. So it may be that the second 
surface of the aluminium-foil becomes, as it were, a new cath- 
ode, and starts cathodic rays. This, perhaps, is not what we 
should have anticipated beforehand. Still, there is nothing 
unnatural in it, and nothing, it seems to me, in consequence 
of which you would be obliged to reject the theory which 
makes the cathodic rays to be streams of molecules. There 
are one or two other difficulties mentioned by Wiedemann, but 
I do not think they are at all serious ; they are certainly not 
so serious as the one I have just referred to. I will, therefore, 

52 



RONTGEN RAYS 

pass on. The possibility of deflecting the cathodic rays by 
electrostatic and magnetic forces seems to be an insuperable 
difficulty in the way of the theory which makes them to be a 
process going on in the ether ; but both of these are perfectly 
in accordance with what was to be expected on the supposition 
that they are streams of molecules, provided you remember 
that these molecules are highly charged with electricity. A 
moving charged body behaves as regards deflection like an 
electric current. Again, if you have highly charged molecules 
in the neighborhood of a positively or negatively statically 
charged body, they will be attracted or repelled, and the de- 
flections of the rays are precisely what was to be expected ac- 
cording to that theory. I think we may assume that the 
cathodic rays are really streams of electrified molecules which 
strike against the opposite wall of the tube, or, as I will now 
call it, the target. Now, when a molecule, coming in this 
way from the cathode, strikes the target, how does the mole- 
cule act ? It may act in two ways. It may act as a mass of 
matter, infinitesimal though it be, by virtue of its momentum 
— by virtue of its mass and velocity — and it may act also as a 
charged body, a statically charged body. What the appropri- 
ate physical idea is of a statically charged body is more than I 
can tell you. I was talking not long ago to Lord Kelvin about 
it — and he is a far higher authority in electrical matters than I 
am — and he considers that the physical idea of a statically 
charged body is still a mystery to us. Well, if these charged 
molecules strike the target we may think it exceedingly prob- 
able that by virtue of their charge they produce some sort of 
disturbance in the ether. This disturbance in the ether would 
spread in all directions from the place of disturbance, so that 
each projected molecule would on that supposition become, on 
reaching the target, a source of ethereal disturbance spread- 
ing in all directions. Well, what is the character of such a 
disturbance ? The problem of diffraction, dynamically consid- 
ered, may be supposed to reduce itself to this. Suppose you 
have an infinite mass of an elastic medium, and suppose a 
small portion is disturbed in the most general way possible, 

53 



MEMOIRS ON 

what will take place ? A wave of disturbance will spread out 
spherically from the place of disturbance.* You might at first 
sight suppose that you could have a wave, in any limited region 
of which you might have a transversal disturbance in some one 
direction, the same all through the thickness of the shell oc- 
cupied by the wave, though naturally the direction of disturb- 
ance might vary from one region to another more or less dis- 
tant region. But the dynamical theory shows that that is not 
possible. In any limited region, or elementary area, as we may 
regard it, of the wave, as you pass in a direction perpendicular 
to the front, the disturbance in one direction must be ex- 
changed for a disturbance in the opposite direction, in such a 
manner that ultimately — that is, when the radius of the wave 
is very large compared with its thickness — the integral of the 
disturbance in one direction, which we may designate as posi- 
tive, must be balanced by the integral of the disturbance in 
the opposite, or negative, direction. The simplest sort of 
" pulse," as I will call it, in order to distinguish it from a peri- 
odic undulation, would be one consisting of two halves in 
which the disturbances were in opposite directions. The pos- 
itive and negative parts are not necessarily alike, as one may 
make up by a greater width, measured in the direction of 
propagation, for a smaller amplitude ; but it will be simplest 
to think of them as alike, except as to sign. The following 
figure represents this conception, the 
positive and negative halves being dis- 
tinguished by a difference of shading. 
According to the view here put forward, the Rontgen 
emanation consists of a vast succession of independent pulses, 
starting respectively from the points and at the times at 
which the individual charged molecules projected from the 
cathode impinge on the target. At first sight it might ap- 
pear as if mere pulses w T ould be inadequate to account for 

* If the medium be compressible there will be two waves, that which 
travels the more swiftly consisting of normal vibrations ; but the opinion 
has already been expressed that it is transversal vibrations with which we 
are concerned. 

54 



RONTGEN RAYS 

the effects produced, seeing that in the case of light -we 
have to deal with series consisting each of a very great 
number of consecutive undulations. But we must bear in 
mind how vast, according to our theoretical views, must be 
the number of molecules contained in the smallest quantity 
of ponderable matter of which we can take cognizance by our 
senses. Hence, small as is the quantity of matter projected 
in a given short time from the cathode, it may yet be suffi- 
cient to give rise to pulses the number of which is inconceiv- 
ably great. It remains to consider in what way this concep- 
tion may enable us to explain the most striking properties of 
the Rontgen rays in relation to the contrasts which they offer 
to rays of light. 

The most elementary difference, as being one which has re- 
lation only to propagation in the ether, consists in the absence, 
or, at any rate, almost complete absence, of diffraction. As 
the different pulses are by hypothesis quite independent of 
one another, we have to explain this phenomenon for a single 
pulse. 

In the figure let OB be a portion of a spherical pulse spread- 
ing outwards from the centre of disturbance (which I will call 
0) from which it came, P a point in 
front of the wave, where the disturb- 
ance which will arrive there is sought. 
From P let fall a normal PQ on the 
front of the wave, and let AB, taken 
around Q, be a small portion of the 
spherical shell which at the present 
moment is the seat of the pulse, and suppose the breadth of 
AB to be small compared with PQ and with the radius of 
the shell, but large compared with the shell's thickness. Let 
CD be an element of the shell of similar size to AB, but sit- 
uated in a direction from P distinctly inclined to PQ ; and 
supposing all the disturbance in the shell stopped except what 
occupies one or other of the elements AB, CD, let us inquire 
what will be the disturbance subsequently produced at P in 
the two cases respectively. 

55 



MEMOIRS ON 

I have shown elsewhere* that in onr present problem the 
disturbance at P is expressed by a double integral taken over 
such portion of the surface of a sphere with P for centre and 
bt for radius (b being the velocity of propagation) as lies with- 
in the disturbed region, which in this case is the spherical 
shell or a part of it. It will be convenient to think of a series 
of spheres drawn round P with radii bt for increasing values 
of t. When t is such that the sphere just touches the shell at 
Q, and then goes on increasing, the disturbance is nearly the 
same all over that portion of the surface of the sphere which 
lies within the small region AB, and that, whether we take 
the portion of the expression for the disturbance at P which 
depends on the disturbance (displacement or velocity) at the 
surface of the sphere whose radius is bt, or the portion which 
depends on the differential coefficient of the displacement or 
velocity with respect to a radius vector drawn from 0. Con- 
sequently the positive and negative parts of the disturbance 
will reach P in succession. But if instead of the small portion 
AB of the shell we take CD, lying in a direction from P not 
very near the normal, it is easy to see that the positive and 
negative parts of the disturbance expressed by our double in- 
tegral, reaching as they do P simultaneously, almost complete- 
ly cancel each other. And this cancelling is so much more 
nearly complete as the obliquity is greater, and likewise as the 
thickness of the shell is smaller. If, then, the disturbance in 
the ether consequent on the arrival of any projected molecule 
at the target is very prompt, lasting, it may be, only a very 
small fraction of the period of a single vibration of the ether 
in the case of light, our shell will be so thin that a small iso- 
lated portion of the Rontgen discharge is propagated so nearly 
wholly in the direction of a normal to the wave that the almost 
complete absence of diffraction is thus accounted for. \ 

* "On the Dynamical Theory of Diffraction," Cambridge Philosophical 
Transactions, vol. ix., p. 1 ; or Collected Papers, vol. ii., p. 243, Arts, 19-22. 

f It is known that there is a difference of quality in Rontgen ra} T s, and 
that the Rontgen discharge may be filtered by absorption. It is known 
also that the increased exhaustion in a Crookes' tube, which is accompanied 

56 



RONTGEN RAYS 

The explanation which has just been given of the apparent 
absence of diffraction in the case of the Rontgen rays is closely 
analogous to the ordinary explanation of the existence of rays 
and shadows. It differs, however, in this respect, that here 
we are dealing with a single pulse, whereas in the case of light 
we are dealing with an indefinite succession of disturbances. 
In order to understand the sharpness of the shadows produced 
by the Rontgen rays, we are not obliged to suppose that the 
disturbance is periodic at all. It must be partly negative and 
partly positive, and that being the case, if the thickness of the 
shell is very small, the amount of diffraction will be very small, 
too. Those who have attempted to obtain evidence of the dif- 
fraction of the Rontgen rays have been led to the conclusion 
that if the rays are periodic at all the period is something enor- 
mously small — perhaps thirty times, perhaps a hundred times, 
as small as the wave-length of green light. It seems difficult 
to imagine by what process you could get such very small vi- 
brations, if vibrations there be. It is easier to understand how 
the arrival of charged molecules at the cathode might produce 
disturbances which are almost abrupt. 

Well, then, this is what I conceive to constitute the Rontgen 
rays. You have a rain of molecules coming from the electri- 
cally charged cathode, which you may think of as the rain-drops 
in a shower. They strike successively on the target, each mole- 
cule on striking the target producing a pulse, as I have called 
it, in the ether, which is essentially partly positive and partly 
negative ; and you have a vast succession of these pulses coming 
from the various points of the target which are not protected 
by some screen interposed for the purpose of experiment. 

by increasing difficulty in sending a discharge through it, has the effect 
of giving rise to increasing penetrative power in the Rontgen rays which it 
gives out. It seems to me probable that this difference of quality corre- 
sponds to a more or less close approach to perfect abruptness in the pro- 
duction of disturbance in the ether when a molecule propelled from the 
cathode reaches the target, and accordingly to a less or a greater thickness 
in the outward-travelling shell of disturbance in the ether; and that at rela- 
tively high exhaustions the molecules are propelled with a higher velocity, 
and so give rise to a more prompt disturbance when they reach the target. 

57 



MEMOIRS ON 

This explains the absence, or almost complete absence, of 
diffraction. But that is not all we have to explain ; we have 
still a very serious thing behind. What is it that constitutes 
the difference between the Rontgen rays and rays of ordinary 
light in consequence of which the one are not refracted, or 
only in an infinitesimal degree, while the other are freely re- 
fracted ? This difficulty led me to conceive of a theory, which 
I believe to be new, as to the nature of refraction itself — as to 
the nature of what takes place, for example, when light is re- 
fracted through a prism. Suppose we have light of a definite 
refrangibility, and a prism on which it may be made to fall. 
When the light is admitted we commonly imagine — at least, I 
believe so — that the light is immediately refracted, and with 
proper appliances you get the spectrum. Immediately ? I do 
not think so. How is it that light travels more slowly through 
refracting medium than through vacuum ? There are different 
conjectures which have been advanced. One is that the ether 
within refracting media is more dense than the ether in free 
space. Another is that while the density is the same the elas- 
ticity is less. Then, there have been speculations as to the 
ether being loaded with particles of matter. 

Take a piano. If you strike a note a string is set in vibration. 
You would hardly hear any sound at all if it were rigidly sup- 
ported. But it rests on a bridge communicating with a sound- 
ing-board, and the sounding-board presents a broad surface to 
the air, and is set in motion by the string. The sounding- 
board and the string form a compound vibrating system. In 
the same way it may be that the molecules of the glass, or other 
refracting medium, and the ether form between them a com- 
pound vibrating system, and, token the motion is fully estab- 
lished, the two vibrate harmoniously together. But how does 
it get to be established ? We can hardly imagine otherwise 
than that the ether is excessively rare compared with ponder- 
able matter.* Well, supposing the ethereal vibrations start and 

* The views as to the nature of refraction, which I have endeavored to 
explain, lead me incidentally to make a remark on another subject not, in- 
deed, very closely connected with it. From the first, Rontgen recognized as 

58 



RONTGEN RAYS 

reach a set of molecules, they are somewhat impeded by the 
molecules, and they tend also to move the molecules. But as 
the molecules are relatively very heavy, it may be that it takes 

the seat of the X-rays which he had discovered the place where the cathodic 
rays fall on the wall of the Crookes' tube. This place is indicated to the 
eye by the fluorescence of the glass. But we are not on that account to 
regard the fluorescence as the cause of the Rontgen rays, or even to regard 
the Rontgen emission as a sort of fluorescence. I have seen it remarked, 
as indicating no very close connection between the two, that with a me- 
tallic target we have a copious emission of Rontgen rays though there is no 
fluorescence, and that when a spot on the glass wall of a Crookes' tube has 
for some time been exposed to a rather concentrated cathodic discharge, 
though the fluorescence which it exhibits under the action of the cathodic 
discharge becomes comparatively dull, as if the glass were in some way 
fatigued for fluorescence, it emits the Rontgen rays as well as before. 

Fluorescence is undoubtedly indicative of a molecular disturbance ; but 
in what precise way this disturbance is brought about by the cathodic dis- 
charge is a matter on which I refrain from speculating. But whatever be 
the precise nature of the process, it seems pretty evident that it can only 
be by repeated impacts of molecules from the cathode that a sufficient 
molecular disturbance can be got up to show itself as a visible fluores- 
cence. 

Suppose a shower of molecules from the cathode to be allowed suddenly 
to fall on the anti-cathode, and after raining on it for a little to be as sud- 
denly cut off. According to the views I entertain as to the nature of the 
Rontgen rays, the moment the shower is let on the emission of Rontgen 
rays begins, it lasts as long as the shower, and ceases the moment the show- 
er is cut off. But the fluorescence only gradually, quickly though it may 
be, comes on when the shower is allowed to fall, and gradually fades away 
when the shower is cut off. So far from the fluorescence being in any way 
the cause of the Rontgen emission, there seems reason to think that if it 
exercises any effect upon it at all, it is rather adverse than favorable. For 
it has been found that when the target is metallic, and gets heated, the 
Rontgen discharge falls off ; and fluorescence, like a rise of temperature, 
involves a molecular disturbance, though the kind of disturbance is differ- 
ent in the two cases. 

As the fluorescence of the glass wall and the emission of X-rays are 
two totally different effects of the same cause — namely, the molecular 
bombardment from the cathode — the intensity of the one must by no means 
be taken as a measure of the intensity of the other, even with the same 
tube. The former effect would appear to be the more easily produced. 
This consideration removes a difficulty mentioned at page 10 of the paper 

59 



MEMOIRS ON 

some considerable time for the molecules to be set sensibly in 
motion. Now if the system of molecules is exceedingly com- 
plex, a mode of motion of the molecules, or it may be of the 
constituent parts of the molecules, may be found such that 
the system tends to vibrate in practically any periodic time 
that you may choose ; only as you choose one time or another 
the mode of vibration will be different ; and, again, according 
to the direction in which the molecules are successively made 
to vibrate the actual mode of vibration will be different. Well, 
I conceive that the difference between the propagation of the 
Rontgen rays and rays of ordinary light with reference to pass- 
ing through a prism depends upon that. When you let a ray 
of light fall upon a refracting medium such as glass, motions 
begin to take place in the molecules forming the medium. The 
motion is at first more or less irregular ; but the vibrations 
ultimately settle down into a system of such a kind that the 
regular joint vibrations of the molecules and of the ether are 
such as correspond to a given periodic time, namely, that of 
the light before incidence on the medium. That particular 
kind of vibration among the molecules is kept up, while the 
others die away, so that after a prolonged time — the time occu- 
pied by, we will say, ten thousand vibrations, which is only 
about the forty-thousand-millionth part of a second — the mo- 
tion of the molecules of the glass has gradually got up until 
you have the molecules of the glass and the ether vibrating 
harmoniously together. But in the case of the Rontgen rays, 
if the nature of them be what I have explained, you have a 
constant succession of pulses independent of one another. 
Consequently there is no chance to get up harmony between 
the vibrations of the ether and the vibrations of the body. 
Go back to the case of light passing through glass. When 

by Prince Galitzin and M. v. Karnoj'itzky, as attending the supposition 
that the X-rays originate in the points in which the cathodic rays fall on 
the wall of the tube or other target. Nor need it surprise us that in some 
cases the shadows seem to indicate more than one source of action, when 
we remember that from a given point more than one normal can be drawn 
to a given closed surface. 

60 



RONTGEN RAYS 

the regular combined vibration is established you have a ki- 
netic energy, due partly to the motion of the ether and partly to 
the motion of the molecules. If you make abstraction of the 
loss of energy by reflection, the rate at which the energy passes 
within the glass must be the same as it has outside, and conse- 
quently there most be the same energy for one wave length, 
which corresponds to one period of the vibration, inside as out- 
side. But if the kinetic energy of the ether is the same for 
the same volume inside and outside, and you have in addition 
inside a certain amount of kinetic energy due to the motion of 
the molecules, the two taken together can only make the en- 
ergy for a wave inside the same as for a wave outside on the 
condition that the velocity of propagation inside is less than 
the velocity of propagation outside. That is the theory I have 
been forced to adopt as to the nature of refraction in conse- 
quence of the ideas I hold as to the nature of the Rontgen 
rays ; and if you adopt that theory I think everything falls into 
its place. When you have the Rontgen rays falling on a body, 
the motion of the ether due to them is interfered with by the 
molecules of the body, more or less. No body is perfectly 
transparent to these rays, and, on the other hand, perhaps we 
may say no body is perfectly opaque. That all falls into its 
place on this supposition as to the nature of the action of the 
ether on the molecules. Now, why is it that the Rontgen 
rays do not care whether you present them with black paper or 
white paper ? What is the cause of blackness ? The light 
falling upon the paper produces motion in the ultimate mole- 
cules. In the case of a transparent substance you have a com- 
pound vibrating system going on, vibrating without change. 
But in the case of an absorbing medium the vibrations which 
after a time are produced in the molecules spread out into 
adjoining molecules, by virtue of the communication of the 
molecules with one another, and are carried away ; so that in 
the case of an absorbing medium there is a constant beginning 
to set the molecules in vibration ; but they never get to the 
permanent state, because the vibration is carried away by com- 
munication from one molecule to another. But in the case of 

61 



MEMOIRS ON 

the Rontgen rays you have done with the pulse altogether 
long before any harmonious vibration between the ether and 
the molecules can be established ; so that a state of things is 
not brought about in which you get a, comparatively speaking, 
large vibration of the molecules. Consequently, the Rontgen 
rays do not care whether you give them black paper or not. 

I must not keep you more than a minute or two longer ; but 
I do not like to close this lecture without saying a word or 
two regarding the Becquerel rays. What takes place there ? 
To be brief, I must refer to the most striking case of all. 
Take the case of metallic uranium. That gives out something 
which, like the Rontgen rays, has an influence passing through 
black paper, and capable of affecting a photographic plate. 
It is also capable of effecting the discharge of statically charged 
electrified bodies. Apparently this goes on indefinitely. You 
do not need, apparently, to expose the metal to rays of high 
refrangibility in order that this strange thing should go on. 
What takes place ? My conjecture is that the molecule of 
uranium has a structure which may be roughly compared to a 
flexible chain with a small weight at the end of it. Suppose 
you have vibrations communicated to such a chain at the top ; 
they travel gradually to the bottom, and near the bottom pro- 
duce a disturbance which deviates more from a simple har- 
monic undulation. So, if a vibration is communicated to 
what I will call the tail of the molecule of uranium, it may 
give rise to a disturbance in the ether which is not of a regular 
periodic character. I conceive, then, that you have vibrations 
produced in the ether, not of such a permanently regular char- 
acter as would constitute them vibrations of light, and yet not 
of so simple a character as in the Rontgen rays — something be- 
tween. And accordingly there is enough irregularity to allow 
the ethereal disturbance to pass through black paper, and 
enough regularity on the other hand to make possible a cer- 
tain amount of refraction. You can also obtain evidence of 
the polarization, and, consequently, of the transverse character 
of these rays. 

According to the theory of the nature of the Rontgen rays 

62 



RONTGEN RAYS 

which I have endeavored very briefly to bring before you, we 
have here, as I think, a system the various parts of which fit into 
one another. You start with the Rontgen rays, which con- 
sist, as I conceive, of an enormous succession of independent 
pulses ; you pass to the Becquerel rays, which are still irregu- 
lar, but are beginning to have a certain amount of regularity ; 
and you end with the rays which constitute ordinary light. 
According to this theory, the absence of diffraction in the 
Rontgen rays is explained, not by supposing they are rays of 
light of excessively short wave length, but by supposing they 
are due to an irregular repetition of isolated and independent 
disturbances. So far as I know, the view I have been led to 
form as to the nature of refraction, and which forms an inte- 
gral portion of the theory as to the Rontgen rays, is altogether 
new, so much so that I felt at first rather startled by it ; but 
I found myself fairly driven to it by the ideas I entertain as to 
the nature of the Rontgen rays, and I am not aware of any se- 
rious objection to it. 

Additional Note 

The problem of diffraction in the case of a vast system of 
independent very slender pulses deserves to be treated in some- 
what greater detail. It is rather simpler than the problem of 
diffraction in the case of series of undulations such as those 
which constitute light, because the pulses are to be treated 
separately and independently, like streams of light from differ- 
ent sources ; and as the whole thickness of a pulse in the case 
of the Rontgen rays may probably be something comparable 
with the millionth of an inch, we have no need to inquire what 
will be the disturbance continually passing across a fixed sur- 
face in space ; we may treat the shell at any moment as consti- 
tuting an initial disturbance in the ether, and then examine the 
efficiency of different parts of the shell in disturbing at a future 
time the ether at a given point of space in front of the shell. 

The thickness of the shell is not necessarily the same at 
points situated in widely different directions as regards their 
bearing from the centre, and the same applies to the direction 

63 



MEMOIRS ON 



of disturbance. But in any case for a small portion of the 
shell the thickness may be deemed uniform, and the direction 
of disturbance sensibly the same as we pass from point to point 
in a direction tangential to the shell, while it varies with great 
rapidity, at least as regards its amount, when we pass from 
point to point in a normal direction, vanishing at the outer and 
inner boundaries of the shell. 

As the disturbance we are concerned with is of the distor- 

tional kind only, the disturbance 
at time t at a point P in front 
of the shell may be obtained 
from that at time in the shell 
in its position which is taken as 
initial by the last equation in Art. 
22 of my paper on diffraction al- 
ready cited. Let E be a point in 
the shell of disturbance when in 
that position which is regarded 
as initial, r, r' the distances PR, 
OR ; 0,0' their inclinations to 
OP ; <j> the azimuth round OP 
of the plane PRO. Then in the 
formula referred to dcr=sm eld d<p. Also rdd x sin (d + d') = dr'; 
and sin 0/sin (Q+Q') — r'l OP=r'/(r-{-r r ) very nearly. 

Let OP cut the inner boundary of the shell in S, and let 
ab or QS, the thickness of the shell, be denoted by X. In the 
equation referred to, the term arising from the differentiation 
with respect to t of the t outside the sign of double integration 
will be of the order X/r' as compared with the others, and may, 
therefore, be neglected. The t outside may be replaced by 
rib, and the fraction rl(r-\-r'), being sensibly constant over 
the range of integration, may be put outside. Our expression 
then becomes 




'««=4?/fMfi 



dr'clq* 



* The suffix bt means that the integration is taken over a spherical sur- 
face with centre Pand radius bt. 

64 



RONTGEN RAYS 

As the disturbance deemed initial was only a momentary con- 
dition of a wave that had been travelling outwards with the 

velocity h, we must have u =— b-^-,, and therefore 

dr 



*«=-j£?f/($?)*'**- 



tr 



The expression is left in the first instance in this shape in 
order to show more clearly the manner in which each portion of 
the disturbance in the state'taken as initial contributes towards 
the future disturbance at P. When there is no obstacle to the 

ansmission we shall have / d<p—%Tr, and / l-j-j)dr'=(£o) 

taken between limits. If ht <PQ, the sphere round P with 
radius U does not cut the disturbed region at all, and the 
disturbance at P is nil. If bt>PS, the limits of r' are the 
distances from at which the sphere round P cuts the inner 
and outer limits of the shell, and as the disturbance there van- 
ishes we have again no disturbance at P. But if It lies be- 
tween those limits, and the sphere round P cuts OP in T 
(which point must lie between Q and 8) the limits of r' will be 
OT to a point in the outer boundary of the shell, where there- 
fore £ vanishes. Hence the displacement at P is the same as 
was initially at T, only diminished in the ratio of r+r' to r' , 
as we know it ought to be. 

Reverting to the expression for £ given by the double inte- 
gral, we see that the only portion of the shell which is efficient 
in producing a subsequent disturbance at P lies between the 
sphere round with radius OQ and the sphere round P with 
radius PS. If /3 be the distance from OP of the intersection 
of these spheres, we have, considering the smallness of the ob- 
liquities, 

2rr'\ 

If we suppose r and r' to be each 4 inches, and \ the mill- 
ionth of an inch, we have /3 = 0.002 inch, so that at a distance 
not less than the one-250th of an inch from the projection of 
e 65 



MEMOIRS ON RONTGEN RAYS 

the edge of an opaque body intercepting Rontgen rays coming 
from a point 4 inches off, and. received on a screen (fluorescent 
or photographic) 4 inches on the other side, there would be 
full effect or no effect according as we take the illuminated or 
the dark side of the projection. We see then how possible it 
may be to have an almost complete absence of diffraction of 
the Rontgen rays if the pulses ar% as thin as above supposed ; 
and as these rays are started in the first instance in a totally 
different manner from rays of ordinary light, namely, by the 
arrival of charged molecules from a cathode at a target instead 
of by the vibrations of the molecules of ponderable matter, we 
know of no reason beforehand forbidding us to attribute an 
excessive thinness to the pulses which the charged molecules 
excite in the ether. 

Biographical Sketch 

Sir George Gabriel Stokes was born August 13, 1819, in 
Ireland, County Sligo, and is at the present time Fellow of 
Pembroke College and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 
the University of Cambridge. He was Senior Wrangler in 
1841 ; he has been President of the Royal Society of London, 
and has received numerous honors at home and abroad. His 
main contributions to science may be grouped under the head 
of Hydrodynamics and the Wave Theory of Light. His papers 
on the former subject gave the first rigid treatment and formed 
the basis of our modern theory. Similarly, in the wave theory 
of light his papers on the dynamical theory of diffraction and 
on the aberration of light are two of the most important con- 
tributions of modern times to science. His collected papers 
are being published at the present time by the University of 
Cambridge, and two volumes have already appeared.- 

His experimental work has been largely in connection with 
such optical phenomena as fluorescence, metallic reflection, 
and certain anomalous colors seen in crystals. 

His mathematical work is of the first importance, and his 
numerous contributions to all branches of mathematical physics 
have been of the greatest service to science. 



A THEORY OF THE CONNECTION BE- 
TWEEN CATHODE AND RONTGEN RAYS 

BY 

J. J. THOMSON, M.A., F.R.S., 

Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics, Cambridge 
{Philosophical Magazine, February, 1898) 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Electrified Particle Moving in Magnetic Field 69 

Rontgen Rays, thin Pulses 70 

Velocity of Rontgen and Lenard Rays 71 

Pulses Consist of Electric and Magnetic Disturbances 71 

Effect of Time of Collision 71 

Communication of Energy to Charged Ions 72 

Disturbance Greatest at Right Angles to the Cathode Rays 72 

Rontgen Rays not Waves, but Impulses 73 



A THEORY OF THE CONNECTION BE- 
TWEEN CATHODE AND RONTGEN RAYS 

BY 

J. J. THOMSON, M.A., F.R.S. 

A moving electrified particle is surrounded by a magnetic 
field, the lines of magnetic force being circles having the line 
of motion of the particle for axis. If the particle be sud- 
denly stopped, there will, in consequence of electro-magnetic 
induction, be no instantaneous change in the magnetic field ; 
the induction gives rise to a magnetic field which for a mo- 
ment compensates for that destroyed by the stopping of the 
particle. The new field thus introduced is not, however, in 
equilibrium, but moves off through the dielectric as an electric 
pulse. In this paper we calculate the magnetic force and 
electric intensity carried by the pulse to any point in the di- 
electric. 

The distribution of magnetic force and electric intensity 
around the moving particle depends greatly on the velocity 
of the particle; if this velocity is so small that the square 
of its ratio to the velocity of light can be neglected, 
then the electric intensity is symmetrically distributed round 
the particle, and at a distance r from it is equal to e\r 2 , 
where e is the charge on the particle ; the lines of magnetic 
force are circles with the line of motion of the particle for 
axis ; ' the magnitude of the magnetic force at a point P is 
we sin d/r 2 , where w is the velocity of the particle, and 6 the 
angle a radius from the particle to P makes with the direc- 
tion of motion. 

When, however, the velocity of the particle is so great that 



MEMOIRS ON 

we can no longer neglect the square of its ratio to the velocity 
of -light, the distribution of electric intensity is no longer uni- 
form ; the electric intensity, along with the magnetic force, 
tends to concentrate in the equatorial plane — that is, the plane 
through the centre of the particle at right angles to its direc- 
tion of motion ; this tendency increases with the velocity of 
the particle until, when this is equal to the velocity of light, 
both the magnetic force and the electric intensity vanish at all 
parts of the field, except the equatorial plane, and in this plane 
they are infinite. 

The pulses started by the stopping of the charged particle 
are, as might be expected, different when the ratio of the ve- 
locity of the particle to that of light is small and when it is 
nearly unity. But even when the velocity is small, the pulse, 
started by stopping the particle, carries to an external point a 
disturbance in which the magnetic force is enormously greater 
than it was at the same point before the particle was stopped. 
The time the pulse takes to pass over a point P is, if the charged 
particle be spherical, equal to the time light takes to pass over 
a distance equal to the diameter of this sphere ; the thickness 
of this pulse is excessively small compared with the wave-length 
of visible light. When the velocity of the particle approaches 
that of light, two pulses are started when it is stopped. One of 
these is a thin plane sheet whose thickness is equal to the di- 
ameter of the charged particle ; this wave is propagated in the 
direction in which the particle was moving ; there is no corre- 
sponding wave propagated backwards : the other is a spherical 
pulse, spreading outward in all directions, whose thickness is 
again equal to the diameter of the charged particle, and thus, 
if the joarticle is of molecular dimensions, or, perhaps, even 
smaller, very small compared with the wave-length of ordinary 
light. The theory I wish to put forward is that the Rontgen 
rays are these thin pulses of electric and magnetic disturbances 
which are started when the small negatively charged particles 
which constitute the cathode rays are stopped. 

[The mathematical theory is omitted.] 

Thus we see that the stoppage of a charged particle will give 

70 



RONTGEN RAYS 

rise to very thin pulses of intense magnetic force and electric 
intensity ; when the velocity of the particle is small there will 
be one spherical pulse ; when the velocity is nearly equal to 
that of light there will, in addition to the spherical pulse, be a 
plane one, propagated only in the direction in which the par- 
ticle was originally moving. It is these pulses which I believe 
constitute the Rontgen rays. As they consist of electric and 
magnetic disturbances, they might be expected to produce some 
effects analogous to those of light. If they were so thin that 
the time taken by them to pass over a molecule of a substance 
were small compared with the time of vibration of the mole- 
cule, there would be no refraction, and the thinness of the pulse 
would also account for the absence of diffraction. 

In the preceding investigation we have supposed that the 
stoppage of the particle is instantaneous ; if the impact lasts for 
a finite time T, the negative pulse will be broadened out, so 
that its thickness, instead of being 2a, will be 2a-\-\ r £, where 
V is the velocity of light. The intensity of the magnetic 
force in the pulse will vary inversely as the thickness of the 
pulse, so that, when the collision lasts for the time T, the mag- 
netic force in the negative pulse will be 2a/(2a-\-YT) of the 
value given above. The more sudden the collision, the thinner 
the pulse and the greater the magnetic force and the energy in 
the pulse ; the pulse will, however, possess the properties of 
the Rontgen rays until T is comparable to one of the times of 
vibration of a substance through which it has to pass. In the 
case of the cathode rays all the circumstances seem favorable 
to a very sudden collision, as the mass of the moving particles 
is very small and their velocity exceedingly great. In some ex- 
periments which I described in the Philosophical Magazine for 
October, 1897, on cathode rays, the velocity of the negative 
particles was about one-third of that of light, and in some more 
recent experiments made on the Lenard rays, with the appa- 
ratus described by Des Coudres, considerably higher velocities 
were found. A change in the time of the collision will alter 
the thickness of the pulse, and so change the nature of the 
ray. 

71 



MEMOIRS OX 

If we snp}30se that part of the absorption of the rajs is due 
to the communication of energy to charged ions in their path, 
we find that the thicker the pulse the greater the absorption. 
For, suppose that E is the electric intensity in the pulse, m the 
mass, and e the charge on an ion ; then, if u is the velocity com- 
municated to the ion when the pulse passes over it, f the time 
taken by the pulse to j^ass over it, 

mu=~Ee . t ; 
or, if cl is the thickness of the pulse, 

?nu=he. ==; 
V 

thus the energy -mif communicated to the ion is equal to 



1 E 2 cl 



2^2 



2 V 2 

Xow the energy in the pulse is proportional to EV/Y 2 , so 
that the ratio of the energy communicated to the ion to the 
energy in the pulse is proportional to cl. Thus, the broader 
the pulse; the greater the absorption and the less the penetrat- 
ing power. The energy in the pulse is inversely proportional 
to its thickness. 

If we return to the expression for the intensity of the mag- 
netic force in case (1), we see that it is proportional to sin 0, 
so that the disturbance is greatest at right angles to the 
cathode rays : thus, if the cathode particles are stopped at their 
first encounter, the Rontgen rays would be brightest at right 
angles to the cathode rays ; if, however, as would seem most 
probable, the cathode particles had to make several encounters 
before they were reduced to rest, changing their direction be- 
tween each encounter, the distribution of the cathode rays 
would be much more uniform. Experiments on the distribu- 
tion of Rontgen rays produced by the impact of the cathode 
particles directly against the walls of the discharge-tube are, as 
Sir G-eorge Stokes has pointed out, affected by the much greater 
absorption of the oblique rays produced by the greater thick- 
ness of glass traversed by them. Experiments on rays produced 
by focus-tubes would give results more easily interpreted. 



RONTGEN RAYS 

The result to which we have been led from the consideration 
of the effects produced by the sudden stoppage of an electrified 
particle, viz., that the Rontgen effects are produced by a very 
thin pulse of intense electro-magnetic disturbance, is iu agree- 
ment with the view expressed by Sir George Stokes in the 
Wilde Lecture ("Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and 
Philosophical Society/' 1897), that the Rontgen rays are not 
waves of very short wave-length, but impulses. 

Cambridge, December 16, 1897. 



Biographical Sketch 

Joseph Johk" Thomson was born Dec. 18, 1856, in Manches- 
ter, and is at the present time Fellow of Trinity College and 
the Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge. 
Professor Thomson was second Wrangler in 1880, and was ap- 
pointed to his professorship in 1884. He has contributed 
greatly to our knowledge of both practical and theoretical 
physics; his researches on the theory of vortices, and on the 
application of dynamics to physical problems, have been pub- 
lished in book form. The greatest debt that science owes 
him, however, is for having introduced system and order into 
the vast collection of experimental data which have been ac- 
cumulated concerning, the discharge of electricity through 
gases. His work on this subject has been carried on during 
the past ten years, and the most important conclusions are con- 
tained in his volume Recent Researches in Electricity and Mag- 
netism, Oxford, 1893. Professor Thomson has contributed 
largely to our present knowledge of cathode rays and to all 
that pertains to the connection between matter and electricity, 
particularly to the explanation of electrolysis and ionization. 

73 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Among the most important papers bearing upon the subject of X-rays 
are the following : 

Cathode Rays : 

Lenard, Wiedemann, Annalen, 51, 1894 ; 56, 1895 ; 63, 1897. 
Thomson, J. J., Philosophical Magazine, 38, 1894 ; 44, 1897. 

British Association Report, 1896. 
McClelland, Proceedings Royal Society of London, 61, 1897. 
Perrin, Comptes Rendus, 121, 1895. 

Rontgen Rays : 

Thomson, J. J., Proceedings Royal Society of London, 59, 1896. 

Nature, 53, 54, 55, 58, 1896-1898. 
Perrin, Annates de Chimie et de Physique, 1 1 , 1897. 

Comptes Rendus, 122, 123, 124, 126, 1896-1898. 
Murray, J. R. E. , Proceedings Royal Society of London, 59, 1896. 
Wilson, C. T. R., Proceedings Royal Society of London, 59, 1896. 
Lehmann, Zeitschrift fur Electrochemie, 1, 1896. 
Lord Rayleigh, Nature, 57, 1898. 
Les Rayons X et la Photographie a Travers les Corps Opaques. Par Ch. 

Ed. Guillaume, Paris, 1896. 
Rontgen Rays and Phenomena of the Anode and Cathode. By E. P. 
Thompson, New York, 1896. 

Becquerel Rays: 

Becquerel, H., Comptes Rendus, 122, 123, 124, 1896-1897. 
Sagnac, G-., Journal de Physique, 5, 1896. 
A Resume of the Experiments dealing with the Properties of 
Rays. By O. M. Stewart, Physical Review, 6, April, 1898, 

Thorium Rays : 

Schmidt, G. C, Wiedemann, Annalen, 65, 1898. 
Sklodowska-Curie, Comptes Rendus, 126,1898. 



INDEX 



Absorption of Rays by Charged 
Ions, 72. 

Air, Active when Exposed to X-rays, 
15, 21, 22 ; How it Loses Activity, 
16 ; More Transparent to X-rays 
than to Cathode Rays, 10. 

Aluminium, Transparency of, 4, 15, 
27, 30, 52. 

B 

Barium Platino- Cyanide, 6, 23; 

Screen of, 3, 21, 22, 23. 
Becquerel Rays, 48, 62, 63. 
Bibliography, 74. 
Blackness, Cause of, 61. 
Brandes's Experiment, 39, 40. 
Brightness, Conditions of, 24. 



Calcium Tun gstate, 23. 

Cathode Rays, 10, 11, 24, 35, 38, 39, 
70, 72 ; Speed of, 71 ; Relation to 
Rontgen Rays, 70. 

Cathodic Rays, 43, 44, 49, 50, 52, 
53 ; Streams of Electrified Mole- 
cules, 53. 

Crookes, W., Experiments of, 50. 

Current, Effective, in Tubes, 34. 

D 

Density, as Determining Transpa- 
rency, 5. 

Diffraction Phenomena, 40, 46, 53, 
55, 56, 57, 63, 64, 65, 71. 

Direction, Variation of Intensity 
with, 24. 



E 

Edison Screen, 23. 



Electrical Intensity and Magnetic 
Force, Carried by Pulse, 69. 

Electrified Bodies, Discharged by X- 
rays, 13. 

Energy in Pulse, Inversely Propor- 
tional to Thickness, 72. 

Eye, Sensitiveness to X-rays, 7, 39. 



Fluorescence, Production of, by X- 
rays, 3, 6, 36, 59. 

G 

Galitzin, Prince, 44, 46, 47, 60. 
Glass, Transparency of, to X-rays, 

4, 17. 
Green, George, 48. 

H 

Hertz, Heinrich, 10, 35. 

I 

Interference, 12. 

Interrupters of Deprez and Foucault, 

31, 33. 
Ions, Absorption of Rays by Charged, 

72. 



Karnojitzky, von, M., 44, 46, 47, 60. 
Kelvin, Lord, on Static Charge, 53. 
Kinetic Energy of Ether, 61. 



Lambert's Law, 25. 

Lenard Rays, Nature of, 52 ; Speed 

of, 71. 
Lenard's Experiments, 10, 36, 49, 50, 

51, 52. 
Longitudinal Vibrations in the Ether, 

13, 47. 



75 



INDEX 



M 

Magnetic Force, Carried by Pulse, 

69. 
McClelland, C. M., 45. 
Molecules, Statically Charged, 53. 

N 
Normal Rays, More Copiously Emit- 
ted, 45. 



Photographic Action, 6 ; and Fluo- 
rescent Action Different, 37. 

Photometer for X-rays, 23 ; Weber, 
10 ; Bouguer, 23. 

Platinum- Aluminium Window, 29 ; 
Transparency of, to X-rays, 4, 17. 

Polarization of X-rays not Proved, 
47. 

Powders, Effect of, 8. 

Pulses, 53, 54, 72 ; by Impact of 
Charged Particles, 69, 70, 71 ; 
Vast System of, Mathematically 
Treated, 63, 65 ; Velocity of, 70. 

R 

Radiation, Intensity of, 23, 24. 

" Rays " Denned, 11. 

Reflection not Observed with X- 
rays, 8, 46. 

Refraction, Nature of, 58, 59 ; New 
Theory of, 58, 63 ; Not Observed 
with X-rays, 7, 46, 71. 

Rontgen, W. L., Biographical Notice 
of, 40. 

Rontgen Rays, a Vast Succession of 
Independent Pulses, 54; Difference 
of Quality in, 56, 57 ; Thin Pulses, 
Electric and Magnetic Disturb- 
ances, 70. 



Shadows, Sharpness of, 11, 44, 46, 
57 ; Double, 44. 

Spark-Gap, 32. 

Stokes, G. G., 26, 43, 72 ; Biographi- 
cal Notice of, 66. 



Tesla Apparatus, 17, 18, 32. 

Thickness, Effect of, on Transpa- 
rency, 5; Relation of, to Density, 6. 

Thomson, J. J., 45 ; Biographical 
Notice of, 73. 

Transparency of Different Bodies, 
4, 26, 27, 46. 

Tubes, Hard and Soft, 30, 33 ; Hit- 
torf, Lenard, Crookes, 3, 9, 10, 
35, 39, 50; Variation of, with 
Use, 33. 

V 

Velocity, Dependence of Pulse on, 

70. 
Vibration, Longitudinal, in the 

Ether, 13, 47. 

W 

Weber Photometer, 10. 
Wiedemann, E., 52. 
Wilde Lecture, 43. 
Window-Number, 29. 



X-rays, Best Tubes for, 24 ; Chemi- 
cal Action of, 6 ; Difference with 
Hard and Soft Tubes, 31 ; Diffrac- 
tion of, 40 ; Discharge Electrified 
Bodies, 13 ; Discovery of, 3 ; Dis- 
tinction from Cathode Rays, 11 ; 
Effect of Current on, 34 ; Intensity 
of, 23 ; Interference of, 12 : Mixt- 
ure of, 35 ; Named, 4 ; Nature 
of, 12, 43 ; Not Deflected by Mag- 
net, 10 ; Origin in Tube, 11. 38, 
43 ; Photograph by Means of, 6 ; 
Photometer, 23 ; Platinum Best 
Suited to, 18 ; Propagation in the 
Ether, 46 ; Rectilinear Propaga- 
tion of, 11, 12 ; Succession of 
Pulses, 54 ; Transparency to, 3, 
4, 10, 26, 27, 28; Transverse Vi- 
bration of, 48. 



Zehnder Tubes, 34. 



THE ESTD 



STANDARDS IN NATURAL SCIENCE 



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Laboratory Instruction for College Classes. By Joseph S. 
Ames, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics in Johns 
Hopkins University, author of '■' Theory of Physics/' and 
William J. A. Bliss, Associate in Physics in Johns Hop- 
kins Uniyersity. 8vo, Cloth, $1 80 ; by mail, $1 95. 

I have examined the book, and am greatly pleased with it. It is clear 
and well arranged, and has the best and newest methods. I can cheerfully 
recommend it as a most excellent work of its kind.— H. W. Harding, 
Professor Emeritus of Physics, Lehigh University. 

I think the work will materially aid laboratory instructors, lead to 
more scientific training of the students, and assist markedly in incentives 
to more advanced and original research.— Lucien I. Blake, Professor of 
Physics, University of Kansas. 

It is written with that clearness and precision which are characteristic 
of its authors. I am confident that the book will be of great service to 
teachers and students in the physical laboratory.— Harry C. Jones, Ph.D., 
Instructor in Physical Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University. 



NEW YORK AND LONDON 
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS 






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